alexa Face to face: House reopens amid rift - Daily Nation

Face to face: House reopens amid rift

Monday February 22 2010

The National Assembly. PHOTO/FILE

The National Assembly. PHOTO/FILE 

By NJERI RUGENE and ALPHONCE SHIUNDU

President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga meet in public on Tuesday for the first time since their spat over the suspension of two Cabinet ministers two Sundays ago.

The two will come face to face as the President presides over the State opening of the Fourth Session of the 10th Parliament in the afternoon.
Mr Odinga, who is also the MP for Lang’ata, is expected to attend.

Swiftly overturned

Mr Odinga announced the suspension of Education minister Sam Ongeri and Agriculture minister William Ruto over corruption allegations, but the move was swiftly overturned by the President, sparking the standoff.

The Prime Minister reacted by declaring a dispute in the Grand Coalition Government and invited the chief mediator in the Kenya post-election crisis, Mr Kofi Annan, to intervene.

His ODM party also announced that it would boycott Cabinet meetings until the matter was resolved.

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Mr Ruto is a deputy party leader in ODM and Prof Ongeri is allied to PNU.

On Monday, Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto met for the first time since the suspension was reversed by President Kibaki.

It was at a meeting of ODM Cabinet ministers that was held at the Treasury to review the agenda of the year.

Although the details of the meeting were unclear, sources said it was meant to cement relations ahead of Tuesday’s opening of Parliament and address various issues that have threatened to tear apart the party, which opinion polls rate as most popular in the country.

Last Wednesday the President and the Prime minister talked by telephone and agreed to meet once the latter returned from an official visit to Japan, but there have been disagreements since, on when the meeting should be convened.

On Tuesday in Parliament the President will deliver a regular policy statement which MPs will debate for four days.

The 220 MPs reconvene to a busy agenda, with the most onerous task being the constitutional review.

The House will be minus two MPs — Mr Omingo Magara (South Mugirango) and Mr Chirau Mwakwere (Matuga) — whose elections were nullified by the courts.

The experts who have been refining the revised draft are scheduled to return it to the Parliamentary Select Committee for tabling before the House for seven days of debate.

The feud in the Cabinet could also be played out on the question of who should be the leader of Government Business. PNU intends to re-introduce a motion which seeks a change in standing orders to give the President the power to name the office holder.

Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau also wants the President allowed to appoint the chair of the House Business Committee. Currently, House rules say the holder of the position is appointed by the government.

The government has been without a leader in the House for close to a year, after Mr Odinga and his party objected to the President’s re-appointment of Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka.

Traditionally, the position is occupied by the VP but the creation of the Prime Minister’s office by the National Accord has complicated matters when Mr Odinga staked a claim to it.

The MPs hope to influence the President to appoint Mr Musyoka through the motion. ODM deputy chief whip Magerer Langat said colleagues behind the motion want to intimidate Mr Odinga.

On the cards too are plans to amend some laws to allow the implementation of the Sh22 billion stimulus package proposed in the Finance Act 2009.
Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to read the Budget Policy Statement to the House before March 21.

The statement gives projections into the next Budget.

This new inclusion came into place last year with the amended Standing Orders and the enactment of the Fiscal Management Act.

The Constituency Development Fund Act is also to be amended to ensure devolved funds are used well.

A taskforce chaired by the concept’s architect, the former Ol Kalou MP, Mr Muriuki Karue, is yet to finalise its report and hand it to Planning minister Wycliffe Oparanya to keep MPs from using the money as part of their campaign largesse.

However, MPs have their eyes set on a Sh150,000 salary increase, a doubling of the Sh5,000 sitting allowance (up to a maximum of Sh15,000 a day) and an annual pay increase of five per cent to cushion them from rising cost of living.

Immediate taxation of their income is envisaged although the net tax liability is zero—they’d be cushioned from the “pain” of paying taxes. These proposals are in a Parliamentary Service Commission tribunal set up to review the perks of MPs and House staff.

MPs are also gearing up to pick the new Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) boss.

The House is scrutinise lawyer and scholar Patrick Lumumba’s suitability to lead the anti-graft crusade. The task is currently before the committee on Administration of Justice and Legal Affairs.

Others to be scrutinised to assist Dr Lumumba at KACC are lawyer Pravin Bowry and Prof Jane Onsongo.

Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara will make another attempt at his push for a law to have suspects in the post-election killings tried locally. His attempt in the last Parliament was frustrated as MPs instigated walkouts forcing premature adjournments due to lack of quorum.

Censure motions galore are also waiting on the wings with some MPs planning one against Prof Ongeri for the mess in the free-learning money.
Some MPs plan to discuss Cooperatives minister Joseph Nyaga over a milk glut.