By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU, firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Wednesday, June 1 2011 at 14:48
Posted Wednesday, June 1 2011 at 14:48
Two crucial reform Bills sailed through Parliament Tuesday night as MPs went into overdrive to fulfill Speaker Kenneth Marende’s promise to the country that Parliament will deliver its part in implementing the Constitution.
The MPs amended the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Bill, 2011 and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission Bill, 2011, effectively exhausting all the Bills in their in-tray save for the Supreme Court Bill.
Though the passage of the Bills came a fortnight late -- as per the timelines agreed upon with the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution-- the MPs were upbeat that they had finally delivered on their legislative mandate.
Tuesday’s sitting was the longest sitting of Parliament in recent weeks, with many MPs sitting through the eight-hour session, and nearly all of them keen to contribute to the debate on the over 100 amendments proposed to the two Bills .
The lawmakers literally burned the midnight oil as they emerged from the sitting minutes after midnight.
It was a rare show of seriousness from the politicians as they went on negotiating how to deal with the emotive issue of managing elections in the country and the redrawing of electoral boundaries.
For the first time, MPs managed to include into Kenya’s laws penalties for electoral officials who manipulate poll results or who are likely to tinker with boundaries. If convicted, such officers will be jailed for three years, fined Sh1 million and banned from ever holding public office for 10 years.
The MPs also managed to instruct the IEBC to take over the report by the defunct Interim Independent Boundaries Commission and conclude delimitation of 80 new constituencies four months after they come into office.
The use of the IIBRC report was fiercely contested by MPs Abdul Bahari (Isiolo South, Kanu) and Chachu Ganya (North Horr, ODM), who argued that the IEBC was an independent commission and therefore there was no point for Parliament to attempt to direct it.
They argued that it was unconstitutional to attempt to direct an independent body. However, they lost their argument.
Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo termed the clause in the Fifth Schedule as a product of “enormous stakeholder consultation” saying that it was “the beginning and the end” to all controversy surrounding the delimitation of electoral boundaries.
There was heated debate following John Mbadi’s (Gwassi, ODM) proposal to have the IIBRC staff taken on board in the new body.
Mr Mbadi said that it was important to have an institutional memory and that’s why the staff with experience were needed to help set up an efficient and effective secretariat.
“It is important to remember that we sent the whole ECK home, and if we do it again with the IIEC, then nobody will be willing to work with any electoral commission in future,” said the Gwassi MP.
But Cabinet ministers Dalmas Otieno and Amos Kimunya opposed the inclusion of IIBRC staff, saying it will give them undue advantage over other equally skilled Kenyans.
Unlike those of the IIEC, whom the House had no problem giving them priority when the IEBC is established; those of the IIBRC were paid off.
Mr Otieno said that having the IIBRC staff mentioned in the law will “complicate matters” when it came to establishment of the commission.
“This amendment is superfluous. These people are still Kenyans and as Kenyans they are not stopped from applying,” added Mr Kimunya. “This proposal will open a pandora box of mischief (and this people will) say, ‘parliament recognised us, so you should consider us and not everyone else’.”
But even with that, the amendment sailed through, as MPs argued that the expertise was important for efficient execution of the commission’s mandate.
The Salaries and Remuneration Commission Bill that sets up the body to determine the pay for all public servants, was also amended and approved by Parliament.
The Commission’s formation has to be expedited to help determine the pay for all state officers, especially, those seconded to the newly formed commissions.
The law approved Tuesday night mandates the commission to regularly review the salaries, remuneration and benefits of State officers and to further advise the National and county governments on the remuneration and benefits of all other public officers.
The two Bills now go to the President for assent.