Zani bill to penalise public officers who defy House

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020 00:00 |
Nominated Senator Agnes Zani who has sponsored the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges (Amendment) Bill, 2020. Photo/PD/FILE

Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka

Public officers who fail to implement resolutions passed by Parliament risk a six-month jail term or a Sh500,000 fine if a new Senate Bill is enacted.

According to the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges (Amendment) Bill, 2020, a responsible officer who fails to take action on a resolution or recommendation of a parliamentary report commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.

The bill imposes a specific obligation on officials of the Executive, constitutional commissions and independent offices to comply with the requirement to give feedback to Parliament’s resolutions.

Gather dust

Sponsored by ODM Nominated Senator Agnes Zani, the new amendments seek to remedy the current scenario where parliamentary reports gather dust in government offices because of indecision by relevant officials.

This is despite a lot of time and resources going into the work of committees and the resultant reports that are tabled and adopted in Parliament.

“It is, therefore, anti-thetical to good governance for those resolutions to be submitted to the Executive and other offices with no action taken or feedback given,” reads part of the Zani Bill. 

Currently, Parliament relies on its Standing Orders for compel action, but Zani says this has been largely ignored since there are rules for the “orderly and effective discharge of the business of Parliament”, unlike legislation which has a binding effect on those to whom it applies.

“Although the current Standing Orders provide for reporting on resolutions, very few reports are ever submitted on action taken on the resolutions passed by Parliament,” she says.

But in most cases, she held, they have ended up gathering dust in shelves despite public resources having been spent producing them.

“The Bill will therefore ensure that feedback on Parliament’s resolutions and reports is not only given but given in a timely manner as delays or failure to submit reports undermine the ability of Parliament to undertake its oversight mandate,” she adds.

Further, the Bill provides for a structured mechanism through which Parliament is able to receive reports from the Executive, constitutional commissions and independent offices and on its resolutions.

Parliamentary reports and resolutions are usually sent to relevant government ministries, departments, agencies, independent commissions and offices for action.

These reports enable Parliament to hold the relevant offices accountable on various matters, including matters touching on the functions and powers of county governments and to require these offices to give regard to input given by Parliament.

The new Bill states that the clerk of the relevant House shall, within seven days of the resolution of the House or of the tabling of a report of the committee of the House, convey the resolution or a copy of the report to the responsible officer under whose portfolio the implementation of the resolution or recommendation of the committee falls.

“The responsible officer shall submit a status report to the relevant committee within the period specified in the standing orders of the relevant House,” reads the Bill.

Action taken

The status reports should contain information on the action taken to give effect to the resolution or recommendation of a report submitted to the office for action.

Where no action has been taken, reasons for actions shall be given and the relevant House or committee may consider extending period for submission of a report based on the strength of the reasons advanced for inaction.

Currently, several parliamentary reports and resolutions have not been acted upon, some for years, after they were submitted for actions.

They include reports on the scrutiny of Auditor General’s on the expenditure of taxpayers money in both the national and county governments.

Public Accounts Committee, Public Investments Committee and Senate County Public Accounts and Investments Committee (CPAIC) have made recommendations to the DCI and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to probe officials, including governors for misappropriating public resources.

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