The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) has approved publication of a constitutional amendment bill that if enacted will require Cabinet appointees to be drawn from Parliament.
The draft bill by West Mugirango MP Vincent Mogaka, which advices Parliament on fiscal matters, will reduce the public wage bill by Sh223.7 million annually, according to the PBO.
It, however, has Sh15 billion in referendum cost implications because it intends to alter article 255 of the Constitution - on the functions of Parliament.
Amendment of the Constitution requires a referendum.
Further, the MP wants Article 152 (3), which bars a Cabinet Secretary from being an MP, deleted.
An MP appointed to the Cabinet will earn an additional Sh400,000 per month in the form of a responsibility allowance, drastically reducing the cost of running the bloated government.
Currently, a Cabinet Secretary is paid Sh924,000 in monthly gross remuneration according to the Gazette notice of July 2017 by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).
If passed, the bill will mean savings of up to Sh500,000 for each of the 22 CSs, who also have a wide range of GK fuel guzzlers at their disposal as well as a comprehensive medical cover that also covers their spouses and children.
They also enjoy a retinue of support staff, including bodyguards and drivers, all paid by taxpayer.
“The financial implication of the bill arises from the fact that where CSs are appointed from among MPs, there will be a reduced number of state officers. There will be cost savings in terms of security personnel, travel costs among others,” the PBO says.
There will also be cost savings on pension contributions and other costs at 35 percent of the gross remuneration of a CS.
The draft bill also proposes to amend the various articles of the constitution to provide that CSs be referred to as Cabinet Ministers as was the case before the promulgation of the new Constitution on August 27, 2010.
It was the wisdom of the drafters of the Constitution that if MPs are appointed CSs, there will be interference on oversight functions and Parliament's independence, which is a referendum issue.
Although Kenya has a bicameral Parliament, the draft bill does not specify whether the appointments should come from - the National Assembly, the Senate or both.
“The enactment of this bill will take us to a parliamentary system where the Executive will be partly in the House. There may be no distinct separation of powers between the Executive and Legislature as provided for in the Constitution,” the PBO says.
It, however, notes that with an MP doubling up as a Cabinet Minister, the workload may increase, likely causing the member not to give adequate attention to constituents.
The Constitution, in articles 256 and 257, describes the mechanism of amending it - either through the parliamentary initiative or the popular initiative.
Other than the functions of Parliament, there are other provisions that cannot be altered without a referendum.
They include supremacy of the Constitution; the territory of Kenya; sovereignty of the people; national values and principles of governance; the bill of rights, the term of office of the President; independence of the Judiciary, commissions and independent offices; functions of Parliament and devolution.
Article 152 (2) provides that a CS shall be appointed with the approval of the National Assembly, with the Constitution limiting the number to a minimum of 14 and a maximum of 22.
They CSs are accountable individually and collectively to the President for the exercise of their powers and the performance of their functions.
The Constitution provides for a CS to face a committee of the National Assembly or the Senate when required to and respond to any questions concerning a matter for which the CS is responsible.
Before the 2010 Constitution, Kenya operated a presidential system with parliamentary features, where the President presided over a Cabinet consisting of ministers drawn from the National Assembly.
The ministers were accountable to the National Assembly and the President had the powers to dismiss them without notice.
Mr Mogaka compares his proposal to practices in South Africa and Singapore, among others.
In South Africa, the Constitution allows selection of Cabinet Ministers from among the members of the National Assembly. It also says that not more than two ministers shall be selected from outside the assembly.
“The President appoints a member of the Cabinet to be the leader of government business in the assembly. A Deputy President is also appointed by the President from among MPs, just like in Kenya before the new Constitution,” Mr Mogaka says.
In Singapore, the Cabinet, which is collectively accountable to Parliament, consists of the Prime Minister and other ministers, who are appointed by the President from among the MPs.