House committees differ on extension term of authority

Sunday February 21 2016

Justice and Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Samuel Chepkong'a addresses the press at Kapsoya in Eldoret on January 4, 2016. The Committee has agreed to ask MPs to extend the term of the Transition Authority institution that was supposed to oversee the transfer of functions from the national to the county governments. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Justice and Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Samuel Chepkong'a addresses the press at Kapsoya in Eldoret on January 4, 2016. The Committee has agreed to ask MPs to extend the term of the Transition Authority institution that was supposed to oversee the transfer of functions from the national to the county governments. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JOHN NGIRACHU
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Two parliamentary committees are headed for a clash over the extension of the mandate of the Transition Authority (TA).

The Justice and Legal Affairs Committee has agreed to ask MPs to extend the term of the institution that was supposed to oversee the transfer of functions from the national to the county governments.

But the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) is set to table a report on Tuesday asking MPs not to extend the term of the authority headed by Mr Kinuthia Wamwangi.

CIOC Chairman Njoroge Baiya said TA has fulfilled its core mandate as the functions designated for counties have all been transferred.

Although President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered in June 2013 that all the functions be transferred, TA later found a way to have some of it done in stages.

“We are of the view that the law does not allow us to extend their term and there is no justification. We’ll be tabling a report on Tuesday saying that,” Mr Baiya told the leadership of the National Assembly at their retreat in Mombasa.

Mr Baiya said the authority’s main reason for extension is based on the argument that the audit of the assets and liabilities of the national government and the former county councils that ought to be transferred to counties is yet to be completed.

The authority has in the past asked for Sh2.5 billion for that, he said, but the Treasury is not keen on that as it thinks the amount is not justifiable and the task should not cost that much.

Majority Leader Aden Duale is also of the opinion that like the Commission for the Implementation of the Commission headed by Mr Charles Nyachae, TA should go home when its term ends.

“He needs to pack his bags like Nyachae,” Mr Duale said of Mr Wamwangi.

UNNECESSARY
The Senate’s Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee has published a Bill seeking to change the Constitution and extend the term of the Authority.

The Second Reading of the Bill by Busia Senator Amos Wako would happen after May as there has to be 90 days between the First and the Second Reading.

With the mandate of the TA ending on March 9, it would mean that the extension is somehow made to apply retroactively.

Still, the Bill would also need the approval of two-thirds of the National Assembly, again after a 90-day period between the First and the Second Reading.

But according to Justice and Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Samuel Chepkong’a, there is no need to change the Constitution to extend the term of the authority.

Mr Chepkong’a argues that like the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board, the TA’s term can be extended via an amendment to the law passed by Parliament that set it up.

He reckons that the section in the transitional clauses that set up the authority does not explicitly state that their term is set at three months.

“We have approved the Bill for the amendment of the Transition Authority Act and it will be published next week,” Mr Chepkong’a told the Sunday Nation.

Interestingly, Mr Baiya is a member of the Justice and Legal Affairs team.

Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said last week that the ministry would leave it to Parliament to decide the fate of the TA.

Although he emphasised the ministry’s neutrality, Mr Kiunjuri’s presentation said otherwise.

TA's REQUEST
It contained an analysis of the nine pending tasks TA boss Kinuthia Wamwangi says are pending and the ministry’s response to each.

TA had said that its pending work relates to audit of assets and liabilities, transfer of pending functions, a counties pension scheme, rationalisation and deployment of staff, civic education, closure and transfer of public records, capacity building and establishing the status of ongoing projects.

TA has compiled a list of counties’ assets and liabilities and wants more time to audit and then transfer them, but Mr Kiunjuri said the Auditor-General can carry out the audit as that is his job.

The Authority also told the meeting of governors and the Presidency last week at the meeting of the Summit last week that all functions have been transferred.

On the management of pension, Mr Kiunjuri said a draft County Pension Scheme Bill is currently being reviewed by major stakeholders – the existing schemes, the National Social Security Fund and the Council of Governors and was also discussed at the Summit last week.