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As Senate resumes today only 28 senators will sit per session

By Hillary Mageka
Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka. PD/FILE
In summary
    • Lawmakers altered their calendar, so as to proceed to a recess to check the spread of the virus.
    • The legislators’ troop to the House Tuesday afternoon amid stringent measures including social distancing.
    • Senators who are aged above 58 years have been urged to stay away from the Parliament precincts.

Senate resumes sittings today after a two-week break over the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, the lawmakers altered their calendar to proceed on recess to check the spread of the virus, which has wreaked havoc across the world.

The action was part of the government’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus though some MPs have expressed concern this will prevent the government from being held to account for its decisions.

The number of people in Kenya who have tested positive for the Covid-19 disease has risen to 50 by yesterday.

Globally, there are 638,146 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 30,039 deaths.

In an unprecedented move, the legislators’ troop to the House  this afternoon amid stringent measures including social distancing that will see members attending the session in shifts.

In a bid to tame the Covid-19 disease, only 28 members will be allowed in the chamber at any one time.

In an interview with People Daily, Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka confirmed that in consultation with the ministry of Health, the House Business Committee has recommended that only 28 senators will be allowed at any given time.

However, senators who are aged above 58 years have been urged to stay away from the Parliament precincts.

“It is all system go, we have labelled the seats and the sitting arrangements is in place ready for tomorrow,” Lusaka said in a phone interview, adding: “The chambers   have also been fumigated accordingly,” he added.

Lusaka said, the House will be considering the Division of Revenue Bill, 2020, which has received from the National Assembly and the same is set for introduction in the senate for First Reading.

The House will consider formation of adhoc committee that will consider and make recommendations on the effects and preparedness of counties on Covid-19 pandemic.

“We want to prepare the counties adequately on how to handle this pandemic by recommending appropriate measures on combating the virus because the talk right now is only concentrate at the national level,” he said.

“We don’t want to look like a talk show, the committee will be tasked to table their recommendations in seven days if approved tomorrow,” he said.

Earlier, the Senate Speaker had indicated that when the house reconvenes this afternoon, it will also look at the possibility of supporting the executive’s initiative towards assisting the vulnerable at this trying moment.

On his part, Minority Whip Senator Mutula Kilonzo concurred with speaker saying House will be prioritizing its debate on the coronavirus pandemic.

“The levies and other measures proposed by the president are top on the agenda,” Mutula said in a phone interview.  

On the question of social distancing in the August House, he said, though only 38 members can sit at any given time, they will be forced to keep minimum quorum 28 after consultations with the Ministry Of Health.

The Senate — with 67 members, 47 elected and 20 nominated — requires a minimum of 15 members to transact  its business.

However, critical businesses such as the passage of bills touching on the counties require the input of at least 24 members.

However, Mutula noted the Senate Business Committee and to a large extent the senators want to be seen not to shy away from the epidemic whilst keeping in mind all the measures and guidelines including the curfew.

On the Division of Revenue Bill, 2020, which the House has received from the National Assembly, Mutula said , the House will expedite the process because the coronavirus is going to pose a challenge to counties in terms of finance.

Division of Revenue Bill is an important piece of legislation that divides money collected by the taxman between the counties and the national government.

The Makueni senator further disclosed that they will invite the national response team on the coronavirus chaired by Health CS Mutahi Kagwe to shed light on how it is combating the disease and the challenges it is facing.

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