As the 67 Senators convene tomorrow (March 31) after the House adjourned prematurely on March 17 due to coronavirus, they will have to do without the frills they have been accustomed to while conducting House business.
There will be no meals or tea served for the legislators, only water.
As part of changes put in place as the number of coronavirus cases grow in Kenya, it will also be mandatory for the Senators to wash their hands first before accessing the debating chamber while sanitisers will be readily available.
The first case of the highly contagious disease was first reported on March 13, forcing the country to enforce changes that led to both the Senate and the National assembly hastily proceeding on recess.
The first business in the House tomorrow will be the reading of the message from the National Assembly on the Division of Revenue Bill (DoRB) 2020, and having the Bill read for the first time during the sitting.
The DoRB, which provides vertical share of revenue between the national and county governments, was passed on March 17 in the National Assembly and transmitted to the Senate for concurrence.
The Bill provides a Sh2.7 trillion expenditure projection for the country with Sh1.78 trillion at the national level and Sh316.5 billion in equitable share to the devolved units.
With the World Health Organization (WHO) issuing a raft of guidelines including washing hands, avoiding handshakes and social distancing, the Senate Business Committee (SBC) -- chaired by Speaker Ken Lusaka -- was to meet today at 12 pm to brainstorm and adopt the guidelines on Covid-19.
The committee is in charge of the business to be transacted in the chamber at every sitting.
Among the precautionary measures being considered in line with the WHO standards against the disease is to limit the number of Senators in the House.
The Senate debating chamber has a capacity of about 70 including the Speaker (presiding chair) and the two Clerks.
However, the Nation has since established that only 28 Senators, two Clerks and the Speaker, the presiding officer or moderator, will be allowed in the House.
The others, at most 17 Senators, will be confined to the Senate lounge where they will follow the proceedings because there will be no catering services at the time.
The lounge is strictly reserved as a place for the Senators to have their tea.
Last week senior officials from the Ministry of Health (MoH) held a session with the leadership of the two Houses led by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and Mr Lusaka at parliament buildings on how to ensure that parliamentary business goes on without fear of spreading the disease.
HEALTH RULES TO BE OBSERVED
MoH officials advised that there should be no physical order paper, the House document that lists the order of business to be transacted in a sitting plus a tentative schedule for the next sitting.
Senate has also been advised that doors should remain open for the duration of the sitting to enable proper circulation of air and that room temperature (in the chamber) be maintained at 25 degrees centigrade.
Virologists across the world say that Coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, tends to flourish more in areas with low temperatures.
To achieve a reduced number in the House, some seats will be blocked, meaning that two empty seats will separate Senators in each row.
The Senate Business Committee will also consider minimising unnecessary consultations with the Speaker during proceedings, or if one has to, social distancing of about one metre from the Speaker is to be observed strictly.
There is also a possibility of installing a phone extension to link the Speaker’s seat with the table clerks so as to minimise unnecessary contact with the Speaker.
In compliance with the dusk to dawn curfew, the Senate is considering ending its sittings by 4.30 pm or 5 to allow the members and staff get home by 7 pm.