Senators offer MPs olive branch on disputed bills

Monday, July 4th, 2022 00:40 | By
27 Senators backed the bid while three opposed the move to expand the debt ceiling

Senators have now moved to end perennial supremacy battles with their counterparts in the National Assembly over legislation.

In a raft of amendments to the Senate Standing Orders, the senators provided for co-sponsorship of bills with members of the National Assembly in an apparent effort to end wrangles.

“A senator who intends to nominate a member or members of the National Assembly to co-sponsor a bill passed by the Senate shall, upon passage of the Bill, notify the Speaker in writing of the name(s) of the proposed sponsors,” the amendment reads.

It states that the Senate shall notify the National Assembly of the proposed co-sponsorship through a message from the Speaker. “Before a bill originating from the National Assembly is read for the first time in the Senate, the Speaker shall notify the Senate whenever a message is received from the Speaker of the National Assembly naming a senator(s) nominated to co-sponsor it,” it reads.

Overstepping mandate

In the outgoing 12th Parliament, several Bills suffered a setback in both Houses after lawmakers fought over their legislative mandates. Members of the National Assembly have often accused senators of overstepping their roles by originating Bills that do not affect counties.

But senators argued that they can originate any Bill, besides the money Bill — one that imposes taxes and levies as provided for in Article 114 of the Constitution.

In October 2020, the High Court nullified 23 pieces of legislation following a petition by senators, who had argued that the National Assembly passed the laws without seeking their input or concurrence.

Subsequently, the Senate rejected all Bills originated from the sister house without their concurrence being sought. But the Court of Appeal overturned the ruling. The case is pending in the Supreme Court.

The new orders also give the Senate Speaker the leeway to correct ‘typographical errors’ without affecting the substance of a Bill, before the same is sent to the National Assembly for consideration.

“The Speaker may, before the certification of a Bill, correct formal or typographical errors without affecting the Bill’s substance,” it reads. The proposal appears to stem from the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020, otherwise known as the BBI Bill, that had typographical errors which the House could not change.

The senators also introduced several amendments that will affect how the fourth senate and its committees will conduct business. In the amendments, the senators have split the powerful Senate County Public Accounts and Investments Committee — which oversights funds channeled to county governments.

Special Committee

“There shall be a County Public Accounts Committee and County Public Investments and Special Funds Committee.

“The County Public Accounts Committee shall exercise oversight over national revenue allocated to county governments.”

It will also examine reports of the Auditor General on the annual financial accounts of counties, and special reports of the Auditor General on counties.

“The County Public Accounts Committee [shall be] constituted immediately after a General Election, and shall serve for three sessions ... and that constituted thereafter shall serve for the remainder of the term of Parliament,” the report states.

The County Public Investments and Special Funds Committee, on the other hand, shall examine reports and accounts of county public investments. It shall also examine reports of the Auditor General on the county’s public investments.

The orders also provide the procedure through which a Speaker may leave or be removed from office, and recruitment of a replacement.

 “If the office of the Speaker falls vacant before the expiry of the term of Parliament, no business shall be transacted by the House until the election of a new Speaker,” the document reads.

The amendments will now also allow

Senators may sit beyond 6.30 m if the House convenes for special sittings, without a member having to move a motion on the extended sitting.

New changes provide a procedure under which Senate proceedings can be temporarily halted to discuss matters of public interest.

The Speaker, in the new standing orders, can adjourn the sitting if there is no quorum after a bell is rung for 20 minutes.

House committees can now push for implementation of their reports by other State agencies.

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