National Assembly: Constitution clear on functions of MPs, senators

Thursday, August 1st, 2019 00:00 |
Constitution. Photo/Courtesy
Cecily Mbarire

Last week, the Senate filed a case in court challenging legislations by the 12th Parliament on the basis of what it cites as disregard of the Constitution by the National Assembly regarding its legislative mandate. 

While I do not want to comment on matters before court, I can review the Constitution on how it demarcates the mandate of each House of Parliament. 

Articles 95 and 96 of the Constitution has conferred exclusive mandate on the National Assembly to represent the people of the constituencies and deliberate on and resolve issues of concern to the people. 

The National Assembly is also responsible for determining the allocation of revenue between the National and county governments. It is only the National Assembly that is responsible for passing laws which allow for withdrawal of funds for public projects or provision of services to wananchi. 

Further, the National Assembly exercises oversight over national revenue and its expenditure, through the committees  such as Public Accounts Committee and Public Investments Committee. 

Additionally, the National Assembly has the power to initiate impeachment proceedings against the President and Deputy President and  can consider petitions by members of the public for removal of Cabinet Secretaries and members of constitutional commissions.  The National Assembly is also mandated to vet and approve or reject presidential appointments. 

Further, it is only the National Assembly that can approve a motion sanctioning the country to go to war or declare a state of emergency, approve deployment of foreign forces in Kenya and deployment of the Kenya Defence Forces to restore peace in any part of Kenya. 

In terms of its legislative mandate, Article 109 of the Constitution gives powers to the National Assembly to introduce and consider any bill. It is only the National Assembly that can legislate on any matter. Such is the unlimited legislative mandate of the National Assembly.

The Senate, on the other hand, is limited in its role. It can only introduce and consider bills concerning county governments. Unlike the National Assembly which can legislate on anything, the Senate can only legislate on functions of the county governments such as laws on pre-primary and nursery schools, agriculture, cultural activities, control of drugs and county health services. 

However, even on Bills touching on  county governments, the National Assembly must approve them upon passage by Senate. Without the approval of the National Assembly, the Senate Bills would fail. 

The Senate cannot introduce or consider Bills that do not concern county governments. The Senate cannot originate money bills, which connotes bills that require the expenditure of public funds for their implementation.  

This provision further illustrates the limited nature of the Senate legislative mandate, as the Senate has to look for a bill which nearly does not exist for them to originate

This explains why very few bills are originated by the Senate.  As such, the senators should stop accusing the National Assembly of ignoring them when passing laws. —The writer is a Nominated MP

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