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Parliament is becoming a joke

Not sure if the Speaker of the National Assembly is reading from the same chapter or is busy himself trying to be selected as a running mate.

Story Highlights
  • With Covid-19 rearing its ugly head since last year and getting progressively worse, requiring members to be physically present in parliament chambers became untenable in trying to ensure social distancing.
  • The Senate is required to have at least 15 members present when conducting any official business, while the National Assembly must have at least 50 members. The Senate has 68 members, while the National Assembly has 350 members. Hard as it is to believe — and completely going unnoticed except by those who care or follow these things closely — both the two Houses have chronic quorum issues and it is high time the public knows and demands the problem be rectified immediately.

For a proposed bill to become law, the Constitution requires specific steps and rules to be followed.

These traditionally included the number of MPs to be physically present in the chambers to debate and vote on the proposed law.

With Covid-19 rearing its ugly head since last year and getting progressively worse, requiring members to be physically present in parliament chambers became untenable in trying to ensure social distancing.

As a result, rules were changed to allow members to attend proceedings remotely, meaning they don’t all have to be in the chambers for parliamentary proceedings. They can appear by video. This in turn allows those present physically to maintain social distancing and other Covid protocols.

But quorum conduct official business remains.

The Senate is required to have at least 15 members present when conducting any official business, while the National Assembly must have at least 50 members. The Senate has 68 members, while the National Assembly has 350 members.

Hard as it is to believe — and completely going unnoticed except by those who care or follow these things closely — both the two Houses have chronic quorum issues and it is high time the public knows and demands the problem be rectified immediately.

Nothing is happening in Parliament because members have decided to prioritise other things other than the business of the people for whom they were elected to represent.

There is no reason parliamentary business should stall or not happen at all because of lack of quorum. It is a scandal in by itself for the drafters of the Constitution to require only 15 members of the Senate to constitute quorum out of a total of 68, who were elected or nominated to do the business of the people.

Ditto requiring 50 members of the National Assembly to constitute quorum out of a total of 350 members who were elected or nominated to tend to the business of Wanjiku.

The main reason MPs are not in the House is because they are busy scheming and finding ways to get reelected long before the polls are upon us.

It used to be, and in fact expected, that in the waning days of a parliamentary session, members would disappear from Nairobi to go vote hunting. However, this phenomenon has been taken to the extreme such that more than a year to the next elections, MPs have left Nairobi for campaigns.

Others are simply minding their own businesses, Wanjiku be damned.

This is inexcusable but they have their enablers and those are none other than the voters they have flipped the proverbial middle finger.

These voters will still vote back the absconding members for no reason other than allowing themselves to be fooled and hoodwinked.

President Daniel Moi, the ‘professor of politics’, used to say he could buy any number of votes he needed for Sh100 each. MPs must have taken note and thus their willingness to abscond from duty knowing they could buy their way back to Parliament.

Noticing the worsening quorum problem, and to his credit, Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka has read the riot act to the Senate majority and minority leaders to curb this problem.

Not sure if the Speaker of the National Assembly is reading from the same chapter or is busy himself trying to be selected as a running mate.

What is clear is Parliament must do the business of the people, otherwise those chronically abdicating on their responsibilities must be thrown out of Parliament and there are mechanisms to do that.

Samuel Omwenga is a legal analyst and political commentator

Via
Sam Omwenga
Source
The Star

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