Parliament adjourned prematurely Thursday after MPs disagreed on a proposal to waive the committee stage for consideration of Bills proposing amendments to two electoral laws.
The two Bills-Political Parties (Amendment) Bill and Elections (Amendment) Bill relate to the next General Election.
The government had proposed fast tracking of important Bills with political connotations by reducing the period required to process them.
MPs questioned the hurry. In particular, MPs opposed a proposal by the Deputy Leader of Government Business Amos Kimunya to waive the committee stage where the Bills can be scrutinised by the public.
The practice is that Bills are referred to relevant departmental parliamentary committees for scrutiny. It is at this stage that stakeholders have a chance for input before they are taken back to Parliament for the Third and final stage.
Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto and nominated MP Rachael Shebesh said the move was suspicious.
“I smell a rat,” said Mr Ruto, cautioning against rushing Bills through the legislative process without providing a chance for proper scrutiny by members of the public.
The MP said the government should spare some of the Bills that are not urgent for the next Parliament for proper handling rather than rushing them.
“This will be a serious disservice to Kenyans where the government wants to bring in many Bills when no one is watching,” he said.
He spoke amid concern about the poor turnout in the House this week. Twice, the House has suffered lack of quorum as only a handful of MPs have attended sittings.
The House, however, reduced the publication period of the Election Campaign Financing Bill which deals with monitoring and regulation of campaign financing. The Bill deals with campaign expenses and provides for a candidate, a political party and a referendum committee to disclose the amount and source of contributions received for campaign.
MPs agreed to have the publication period reduced from 14 to 13 days.
The Bill requires each political party to submit its campaign expenditure rules to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and provides for the establishment of expenditure committees to regulate spending during campaigns.
Under the Bill, the electoral commission is required to set the spending limits for campaigns, at least three months before an election.
Opposing the proposed waiver of the departmental committee scrutiny stage of the Elections and Political Parties Amendment Bills proposed by Gem MP and government Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo (ODM), Mr Ruto said passing the Bills in a hurry might negate gains made in political reforms.
The afternoon session ended prematurely, two hours before the official time of the House to rise.
Mr Midiwo amendment to the Elections Act to remove a restriction of nomination of candidates by only registered members of a political party is awaiting consideration in Parliament.
He proposes that candidates-both nominated by parties and independent be allowed to get nomination from any other Kenyan a part from the registered members as currently stipulated in the Elections Act.
Section 29 of Cap 24 of the Act states that persons who nominate a presidential, parliamentary, county governor and County Assembly candidate shall be registered members of the candidate’s political party. Part 2 of the same requires the same for independent candidates.
Also proposed is to have young people who have turned 18 and holding a provisional identity card-also known as waiting card to be allowed to register to vote using the waiting card.
The aim is to allow millions of young people who have applied but are yet to be issued with IDs to exercise their voting right.
The MP argues that the waiting card should be held as evidence for having registered for an identification card.
Also proposed is an amendment to the Political Parties Act to reinstate the Selection Committee for purposes of appointing the Registrar of Political Parties and assistant Registrars.
Mr Midiwo proposes to remove the Public Service Commission from handling the process. The amendment Bill seeks to insert a new section of the Political Parties Act, 2011 reinstating the provisions of the former Section 35 which existed prior to its deletion under the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Act, 2012.
The Election Campaign Financing Bill drafted by the Minister for Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs is in line with Article 88 (4) of the Constitution and Section 4 (1) of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act, 2011.
It provides for the regulation, management, expenditure and accountability of election campaign funds during election and referendum campaigns.
The Bill sets out the functions and powers of the IEBC in regulation and administration of campaign financing.
It provides for the commission to keep a register of campaign expenditure committees, supervise candidates, political parties and referendum committees in relation to campaign expenses.
The commission shall also set spending limits and enforce compliance with the limits, monitor and regulate campaign expenses and receive expenditure reports from candidates, political parties and referendum committees.
Under the Bill, IEBC has been given powers to investigate or examine matters relating to campaign expenses under the Act.