Inside Politics

Senator proposes Sh2m fine for ‘truant’ governors

Tuesday, December 19th, 2023 03:15 | By
The Senate
The Senate in session. PHOTO/@Senate_KE/X

Witnesses who fail to appear before Parliament or House committees will be fined Sh2 million if a proposal by Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi to amend the law is enacted.

Osotsi wants the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act to be amended to tame government officials who fail to appear before Parliament or its committees.

In his proposals, the Vihiga lawmaker wants the fine to be increased from the current Sh500,000 to Sh2 million.

The Parliamentary Powers and Privileges (Amendment) Bill, 2023 seeks to amend the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act to provide clarity on how the powers of arrest are to be exercised by Parliament and its committees.

But the Bill, which is currently before the Senate, seeks to guarantee persons who fail to appear before Parliament the right to a fair hearing before any adverse action is taken against them.

“The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to Article 125 of the Constitution, which grants Parliament the power to summon any person to appear before it, as well as the power to enforce the attendance of witnesses, as well as Article 50 which guarantees the right to a fair hearing,” reads part of the bill.

In addition, Osotsi seeks to amend the procedures for issuing a summons and provides for executing an order of arrest by a police officer or an officer of a House of Parliament.

In his proposal, Osotsi seeks to have the fine that may be imposed by a court for someone convicted for non-appearance before the House or House committee increased from Sh200,000 to Sh2 million if the bill is adopted by the Senate.

According to the proposed amendment, the Clerk will be required to specify the date of appearance, which should be at least seven days from the date of receipt of the summons.

Order of arrest

The bill further proposes that the execution of an order of arrest is to be done by a police officer or an officer of a House of Parliament and that where an order of arrest is to be effected by a police officer, the Clerk shall transmit the order to the Inspector-General for execution.

“Where an order of arrest is to be effected by an officer of a House of Parliament, the Inspector-General shall facilitate the arrest as may be requested by the Clerk,” re Bill.

The bill further proposes that persons who have been arrested may be held either at a place designated under the National Police Service Act or at a place designated by the Clerk with the person to be produced before either a court or the House or committee of the House that summoned him or her, on the next working day. However, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), the Commission on Administrative Justice (Ombudsman) and the Council of Governors (CoG) have poked holes in the bill.

The four told the Senate Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee chaired by Bomet Senator Hillary Sigei that there is a need to balance the increase of fines as well as establish the reasons for the failure of a witness to appear before issuing a fine.

County Governors, many of whom the Senate has accused of failing to honour committees summons,  proposed that clause 4(b) of the bill be amended to provide for non-imposition of penalties where valid reasons are given to justify non-appearance before  Parliament or committee.

“This would ensure that individuals summoned to appear were not unduly penalized for unforeseen circumstances beyond their control. This safeguard was essential to prevent unwarranted punitive measures and to uphold the principles of justice and due process thus safeguarding the rights of summoned individuals,” the Council of Governors said in its submission.

More on Inside Politics