When CSs were caught up in MPs, senators battles
The unending supremacy battle between the National Assembly and the Senate were amplified in 2019 after the former told Cabinet secretaries and their principal secretaries not to honour any invitations or summons from the latter arguing it had no jurisdiction.
This as Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i wrote to the Attorney General seeking an advisory over the roles and functions of the Senate Committees.
Led by National Assembly Aden Duale and his minority counterpart John Mbadi, the National Assembly said Cabinet secretaries, their PSs and by extension parastatal chiefs should only heed summons given by National Assembly committees.
Duale threatened to hold each Cabinet secretary culpable to define on what grounds they appear before some of Senate committees.
“Senate has no powers to impeach Cabinet secretaries so even if they indict or threaten them the only House that vets and have powers to remove State officers from office is the National Assembly,” Duale said in one of the debates on the floor of the House on July 3, 2019, amid applause from his colleagues.
The pronouncements left some senate committee chairs crying foul that the CSs may have listened to Duale’s remarks and taken it to be the “gospel truth” to snub their invitations and summons.
Senators have found themselves at cross-hairs with their colleagues in the National Assembly after being repeatedly accused of duplicating the legislative, representative, oversight roles and the organisational and institutional structures exercised by the National Assembly.
Senate committees which have “notoriously” been accused of overstepping their mandate include those on Roads, Trade and Commerce, Budget and Finance, Defence and Foreign Relations, National Security, Education and Energy.
In a report filed in the Senate by committee chairpersons of Trade and Transport for the period ending June 30, 2019, revealed that Trade and Industry Cabinet secretary Peter Munya and his Transport and Infrastructure counterpart James Macharia had declined to appear before them to respond to various queries regarding their relevant ministries.
“During the period under review, my committee experienced challenges in the execution of its mandate due to failure of the Trade, Industry, and cooperatives to honour invitations by the committee,” Senator Charles Kibiru (Kirinyaga), who chairs the committee on Tourism and Trade said in the report.
“The committee notes with concern that some of its stakeholders, especially the Cabinet secretary responsible for the implementation of projects under the committee’s mandate did not promptly honour invitations,” Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi, the chair of the roads committee is quoted in the report covering the same period.
However, Wamatangi noted after the committee invoked its powers under Article 125 of the Constitution and sections 18 and 20 of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act 2017 and issued summons to CS Macharia, he neither appeared nor responded to the committee concerns.
Senator Kibiru raised concern saying despite the committee issuing summon to CS Munya, he did not show up on July 10 when he was scheduled to address various issues regarding his ministry and up to date the CS has not shown any willingness to appear.
But a defiant Duale, was full of praises for Cabinet secretaries who heeded advice saying frequent appearances by CSs before some of the Senate committees had become worrisome even to the President Uhuru Kenyatta, who had raised concerns over their regular trips to Parliament. “The President is even worried about this matter. We need to put it at rest once and for all,” said the Garissa Township MP.
Backing Duale’s sentiments, Mbadi faulted Senators for being “ignorant on the law” with regards to their mandate citing the Division of Revenue Bill 2019 stalemate that has seen both Houses fail to reach a consensus on the shareable revenue to the devolved units. Mbadi referred to Senators as “legislative bandits” who were out to take up the responsibility and functions of the National Assembly in an effort to expand their roles.
But angry senators dared any Cabinet Secretary or Principal Secretary who wants to test the “strength of the Constitution of Kenya” to defy Senate invitations.
“I dare any State officer who is courageous enough to defy this House on the advice of some stranger or fellow out there. Try what this House can do, and we will deal with them,” Deputy Speaker Senator Kithure Kindiki said.
Kindiki said the Senate is not a non-governmental organisation (NGO), but a State organ that is duly established by law. “We are not involved in some charity or philanthropic activities around town,” the Tharaka Nithi Senator stated. To his assert his authority, the Deputy Speaker, advised any committee chairman facing any challenge in terms of securing compliance from the CSs to notify his office for action.