Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bill approved for CSs to be picked from Parliament

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - 00:00 -- BY DAVID MWERE
The speaker of the eleventh parliament Justin Muturi. Photo/Jack Owuor
The speaker of the eleventh parliament Justin Muturi. Photo/Jack Owuor
NATIONAL Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has approved a constitutional amendment proposal that will compel the President to appoint future Cabinet secretaries from among members of the National Assembly.
The proposal by Lugari MP Ayub Savula seeks to amend Article 153 (3) of the constitution that says a Cabinet secretary shall not be an MP. This was a change from the previous constitution that said MPs will comprise the Cabinet.
Savula also wants the constitution changed so that governors appoint members of their county executive committees from among the MCAs. Like the national government, governors are not allowed to appoint their executive committee members from the assemblies.
The Bill now goes to the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee chaired by Ainabkoi MP Samuel Chepkonga for approval, before it is sent to the Attorney General to prepare it for publication. Once published, it will be introduced in the House but it will take three months before MPs start debating it.
In his defence of the Bill, Savula said the current 18-member Cabinet was prone to inertia, and there was discontent and disappointment over its performance a year-and-a-half after it was formed.
“The key reason behind this inordinate turn of events is the ever-growing perception that the appointment mechanism used to identify Cabinet secretaries is wanting. The men and women charged with the task of driving the government’s executive agenda have continued to lose touch with the public,” Savula said.
“Since MPs are elected representatives, they are, by default, accountable to the people and hence in the public interest,” he said.
Savula said that the lack of political drive among the CSs has also affected the implementation of government policies and that their goodwill rating at the grassroots level is at an all-time low.
Cabinet ministers were appointed from the National Assembly for mrs than 50 years, but Kenya’s departure from this tradition came with the second Kenyatta administration in 2013, based on the new constitution promulgated in 2010.
However, Savula said that in developed countries that use the Westminster system such as the United Kingdom, the Cabinet collectively decides the government’s direction, especially in regard to the legislation passed by Parliament. Enacting legislation is a political process.
Such countries appoint the ministers from among the sitting members of the legislature. Though the current presidential system has done away with Prime Minister's Question Time in the House (the position lapsed with the 10th Parliament) Savula said that CSs must respond to questions raised by MPs.
He said that the current arrangement where committee chairmen respond to issues raised by members was unpopular because they only act as conveyor belts.
The National Assembly in its recent amendment to the Standing Orders sought to have Cabinet secretaries appear periodically in the House to respond to issues raised by the members.
The changes saw a special place, Treasury Square or Cabinet Corner, created to accommodate the CSs as opposed to having them seat on the benches reserved for MPs.
But the move hit a snag after Attorney General Githu Muigai advised the ministers against appearing in the House. The AG said it would violate the separation of powers principle.
Consequently, Speaker Muturi announced the creation of a special committee to guide the National Assembly on the way forward before the House goes on recess tomorrow.
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