Senate to slap ministers with Sh0.5m for skipping summons
Senators yesterday threatened to surcharge a Sh500,000 fine for Cabinet Secretaries who fail to appear before the plenary to answer questions.
This is after two CSs Alfred Mutua (Foreign and Diaspora Affairs) and Susan Nakhumicha (Health) failed to appear before the plenary to respond to questions on their dockets raised by the lawmakers.
The duo while failing to appear, wrote to the Senate just hours before the sitting citing they had travelled outside the country on official business, a response that irked the senators.
Senate Speaker Amason Kingi led his troops in castigating the CSs, terming their behaviour as ‘disrespectful and contemptuous’.
“We as an institution, we are not going to tolerate this kind of behaviour. If indeed a CS, is unable to attend the session, courtesy demands that the CS makes communication in good time so that the Senate can re-arrange its business. Writing to the Senate a few hours, to its sitting shows discourteous, and certainly as institution we are not going to tolerate that,” said Kingi.
Appearance in Parliament
Senate Majority leader Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho) said that appearance before Parliament is not a privilege, adding that the excuse of travel they had given was not satisfactory.
“This is a conduct that is unbecoming on part of the two Cabinet Secretaries. What the two CSs have done is gross misconduct and they must be told so in no unequal terms. You cannot write to an institution barely a few hours before their sitting to inform them of a travel I do not know to which part of the world. We were not calling the CSs to have an idle talk,” said Cheruiyot.
He went on: “Nakhumicha and Mutua did not just realize that they were going to travel. They knew it for weeks. To write to this House barely 12 hours because you are globetrotting cannot be taken kindly. This is totally unacceptable. They are grossly out of order. Parliament does not work out of idleness.” His Senate Majority Whip Boni Khalwale (Kakamega) however, proposed that any CS who does not honour the invitation of the House will lose business from their ministries being processed in parliament until such a time they convince us that they are apologetic.
Priority on trips
“There are so many Kenyans who are dying to be ministers in this country. We cannot have people who take trips as a priority than people transacting government business in the House,” said Khalwale.
William Cheptumo (Baringo) while contributing to the debate said that when a CS displays contempt to this House, that CS is directly challenging the sovereign power of the people.
“This is the moment that this House should put strict measures on failing to appear. What is the redress for Kenyan people who are suffering if the CSs cannot appear? We should impose a fine of Sh500,000 for the CS who fails to appear. In the chamber, they don’t appear and in committees, they don’t appear,” said Cheptumo.
Hillary Sigei (Bomet) on his part called for summoning of the Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, charging that he should take responsibility for the CSs that fail to appear.
“This is a show of disrespect to the House. Failure to appear and giving an excuse is disrespect. We need to call them and censure them. Such individuals can be surcharged using their own resources. The Prime Cabinet Secretary must also be summoned so that he also takes responsibility for ministers who fail to come. Some CSs fail to come before committees. This house needs to stamp its authority.”
CSs Kithure Kindiki (Interior), Zacharia Njeru (Lands), Salim Mvurya (Blue Economy), Rebecca Miano (East Africa), Moses Kuria (Trade), Davis Chirchir (Energy) and Ezekiel Machogu (Education) have appeared to answer the questions.