Thursday, March 14, 2013

Senators key to devolution success, house clerk

Clerk of the National Assembly Justin Bundi taking the oath of office. PHOTO / FILE

Clerk of the National Assembly Justin Bundi taking the oath of office. PHOTO / FILE 

By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU ashiundu@ke.nationmedia.com

The success of Kenya's devolved units will depend heavily on laws and policies to be passed by the newly elected Senators, according Clerk of the National Assembly.

Mr Justin Bundi on Thursday said laws on the operations of the 47 counties will determine if the benefits of devolution reach the grassroots.

In a brief to Parliamentary staff, Mr Bundi said the Senate will write legislations and policies that guide relations between the national government and county governments.

“The Senate shall be the backbone of the counties, and its actions will determine the effectiveness of the devolved units in delivering services to Kenyans,” said Mr Bundi.

He also said the Senate retained the exclusive right to impeach the President through the procedures laid out in the Constitution.

Mr Bundi added that the Kenyan Senate will not work like the United States Senate because its jurisdiction is “constricted”.

“All legislations from the Senate will still be subject to approval by the National Assembly (but) the right to prosecute and try the president is the purview of the Senate, a vital check on the Presidency,” said the Clerk.

In his brief, Mr Bundi also explained that members of the National Assembly have the power to veto some of the laws coming from the Senate if they can raise the two-thirds majority of the membership.

Though the quorum in the National Assembly remains at 50 MPs, the number required to overturn a decision of the Senate or the President is 231 MPs – two-thirds of the 349-member National Assembly.

He also explained that laws passed by either House will have to be assented to within 14 days, failure to which they will stand as enacted unless the President gives his reservation before the expiry of the 14-day window after receiving it from the Speaker of either House.

Mr Bundi’s brief comes as the National Assembly gears for the swearing-in of the 349 MPs.

The parliamentary staff are currently going through a crash course on the Standing Orders that will operate in the new regime. The officers are also being trained on how they will handle the committees of the House.

“We have to train our staff to understand the Standing Orders so that when MPs report they are ready for them. We also have to understand our role as National Assembly vis a vis Senate. We are also planning on how to swear in MPs. It is critical for staff to understand that Bills touching on county governments will only be dealt with by Senate,” said Mr Bundi.

The training of parliamentary staff is on-going as the House waits for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to gazette all the members of the National Assembly and Senators.

The President can then convene the first sitting for MPs to be sworn in and thereafter elect a Speaker. That has to be done within 30 days after the General Election – by April 4.

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