Key House teams to be reconstituted as session opens

The reconstitution of the Public Accounts, Public Investments and the Budget and Appropriation committees will be first on the agenda.

Sunday February 7 2016

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chair and Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo (left) addresses the media on February 1, 2016 as vice Chair Jackson Rop looks on. PAC along with the Public Investments and the Budget and Appropriation committees are set to be reconstituted as the National Assembly and the Senate start their fourth session this week. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chair and Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo (left) addresses the media on February 1, 2016 as vice Chair Jackson Rop looks on. PAC along with the Public Investments and the Budget and Appropriation committees are set to be reconstituted as the National Assembly and the Senate start their fourth session this week. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JOHN NGIRACHU
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By ISAAC ONGIRI
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Three crucial parliamentary committees are set to be reconstituted as the National Assembly and the Senate start their fourth session this week after a lengthy Christmas break.

The reconstitution of the Public Accounts, Public Investments and the Budget and Appropriation committees will be first on the agenda of what is bound to be a busy period.

The three committees are reconstituted after three sessions – a session is a year in Parliament’s parlance – which is seen as an opportunity to inject fresh blood into the teams.

(READ: Legislators jostle for key committee jobs)

Also on the agenda of the two Houses will be the preparation of the Budget, with scrutiny of the Auditor-General’s reports on the expenditure of the national and the county governments also going on.

The National Treasury is expected to hand over the Budget Policy Statement, the Division of Revenue Bill and the County Allocation of Revenue Bill to Parliament by February 15.

PRECEDENCE

This means that the reconstitution of the Budget and Appropriations Committee will probably take precedence as it is the team mandated with scrutinising the policy statement, a draft of which the Treasury has already publicised.

Mbeere South MP Mutava Musyimi is the chairman of the current team. With Jubilee dominant in it, its leadership will decide who to back for the job.

The Budget team is considered powerful because it handles the Budget and has the power to shoot down Bills sponsored by individual MPs.

Last year, the team was discovered to have come up with a plan to get Sh3 billion allocated for matters that come up in its public hearings.

An analysis of this allocation showed that most of the projects were in constituencies represented by MPs in the committee.

They were forced to drop the allocation after a furore erupted in the House. 

The Treasury has also indicated it intends to have Parliament involved in the discussions with the county governments via the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC) to avoid a deadlock between the Senate and the National Assembly.

If an agreement is reached on how much money the counties are to get, the Bills on revenue sharing would be passed without much acrimony.

INTERNATIONAL CRIMES ACT

Among the hot issues in the National Assembly is the Bill sponsored by Bumula MP Boniface Otsiula to repeal the International Crimes Act and kick off the process of Kenya’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

“It was coming for First Reading in the House before we went for recess but we agreed to have it among the first items on the agenda when we get back. Three hours are enough for that Bill to go through the Second Reading,” Mr Otsiula told the Sunday Nation.

He said he had asked the House leadership to give the Bill priority when the House resumes.

The Bill is likely to spark a political contest because the Opposition is against it while some Jubilee MPs also see it as an extreme measure that is likely to promote impunity.

Its enactment would not affect the ongoing cases against Deputy President William Ruto and former Kass FM presenter Joshua arap Sang.

Two motions have been passed in the Senate and the National Assembly for the withdrawal from the ICC but a repeal of the Act of Parliament would be seen as a legal order to the State to officially withdraw from the international court. 

Mr Otsiula belongs to the school of thought that the ICC’s handling of the Kenyan cases has shown that it cannot be trusted as a neutral arbiter.

CORD DECISION

This week, the leaders of the Opposition coalition, Cord, will meet to decide on who amongst their MPs will go into the Public Accounts and the Public Investments committees.

The leadership of the two is reserved for the two but the Jubilee Coalition forms the majority of all committees in the National Assembly because of the superiority of their numbers.

ODM chairman John Mbadi said last week that the party is not keen on unsettling the equation as it is at the moment.

He said the party and the coalition will focus on other serious issues affecting the country as opposed to dwelling on small in-house matters.

The three sessional committees include Public Accounts Committee and Public Investment Committee whose leadership is reserved to the opposition and the Budget Committee.

PAC is key to Cord leader Raila Odinga’s anti-corruption crusade and in dealing with the Eurobond mystery after audited reports are presented to the House.

ODM INTERNAL RIVALRY

Given that the committee was reconstituted in April 2015 after its members got embroiled in an ugly and embarrassing tussle over corruption, it is unlikely PAC’s membership will change.

At the time, Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo was elected chairman in an acrimonious contest with his ODM colleague, Mr Mbadi.

Mr Mbadi was said to have had the blessings of Mr Odinga and the party hierarchy and that Mr Gumbo had been prevailed upon to drop his bid. He did not.

With backing from Jubilee MPs and those in ODM who did not want Mr Mbadi to get another powerful and publicity-friendly position, Mr Gumbo got the seat.

“I am not interested in that position. The chairmen of the PAC and PIC are elected by Jubilee as things are now.

As the opposition and with our numbers we do not have the right to do an election as we may want to,” the Suba MP said.

Mr Gumbo is expected to defend his position.

PUBLIC INVESTMENTS COMMITTEE

PIC is currently chaired by Eldas MP Adan Keynan, who is expected to defend his seat.

PIC appeared to have been setting the stage for the change of membership as Mr Keynan tabled a voluminous report on the accounts of State Corporations towards the end of the session in December 2015.

Mr Mbadi, however, said that some party members have raised some issues in regards to the leadership at PIC but he was unsure whether they are interested in settling them by changing the leadership.

He said ODM was keen on planning for the Malindi by-elections and other domestic obligations as opposed to spending energy in addressing the committee positions.

“This matter is largely the responsibility of the coalition’s parliamentary leadership led by Minority Leader Francis Nyenze and the Chief Whip Thomas Mwadeghu,” he said.

Nyando MP Fred Outa, a confidant of ODM party leader Raila Odinga, said ODM should back Mr Gumbo and Mr Keynan despite previous misgivings to avoid creating unnecessary tension that may override other important party issues.

“Mr Gumbo and Mr Mbadi have been effectively reconciled and we are not expecting them to challenge each other for the position.

Mr Gumbo should be allowed to proceed for the remaining time and Keynan should also not be removed,” Mr Outa stated.

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