Entries from December 24th, 2006

Kudos to MP Peter Kenneth!

Posted by on 24th December 2006

Categories: News

MP Peter Kenneth of Gatanga constituency has followed in the footsteps of Prof. Anyang Nyong’o and has set up a rather informative constituency website, which has details on the constituency’s profile, recent projects, and CDF allocation.

We hope other MPs follow suit and realize that there is much to be gained by keeping their constituents informed.

EDIT
: Another fantastic website is Bahari constituency website that’s been set up by MP Joe Khamisi (hat tip Osas!)

Parliament website finally re-launched

Posted by on 17th December 2006

Categories: News

So the official Parliament website was finally relaunched on December 16, with much fanfare and grand proclamations. Speaker Francis Kaparo referred to the website as “dynamic and international.” We are not quite sure about that…what we do know that it is still very outdated. One wonders why it has been down for all this time if nothing much as changed, not to mention the fact that it is a bit absurd to relaunch the website just when Parliament is going into a three month recess.

In any event, this is good news for the Kenyan public and for Mzalendo. IF the website is updated regularly, we can focus on indexing and collating data much in the same way like theyworkforyou (for those wondering where the Hansard is, it’s coming…we are just working hard to present it in a user friendly way). A little bird tells us that eventually the hansard and other data will be presented in XML, therefore making it easier for sites like ours to work with the info. We hope the bird is right.

Final session of Parliament 2006

Posted by on 13th December 2006

Categories: News

A fantastic report from one of our roving reporters.

6:15 to 7:30 PM on Thursday December 7 (the last day of the 2006 parliament)

The final hours of parliament in 2006 was punctuated by a furious debate between the government and opposition. MP’s from bothsides stood to debate on a motion moved earlier in the day to adjourn parliament (as scheduled) till around March next year. Government MP’s were for the move while opposition MP’s were against the motion arguing that crucial bills should be passed first.

MP Wangari Mathai spoke saying she hoped MP’s would usetheir time off to engage in constructive dialogue, healing and peace making

MP Henry Kosgey opposing the adjournment said that there was a lot more work to be done. On agriculture, he said it was a myth that farmers were enjoying boom times. He said that the cost of inputs (fertiliser, furl & transport) had all shot up to an extent that maize, milk, and other farmers were not making money regardless of the improved market prices. He also deplored the state of insecurity.

Minister Njenga Karume said the government had worked hard and accomplished a lot this year and that MP’s should go home and oversee CDF projects that they (should have) started and were on-going.

MP Arungah opposed motion saying that parliament has passed about 40 bills in four years – which is what other countries parliaments do that in a single year. He said that even though parliament had improved and passed over 20 bills this year, there were many more crucial ones that had to be passed.

MP’s Angwenyi and Midiwo on more than one occasion called for the speaker to call for a vote on the issue, but each time the speaker said he would let all MP’s speak, who were willing.

And today there were many, who wished to contribute on the last day. As each member concluded his speech, several would stand up straight to catch the speaker’s attention and be next. Also almost all members speaking were interrupted by “point of order” interjections from other members, which required them to sit down and listen as clarification of their statement was asked for.

MP Paddy Ahenda said that they had not been able to contribute many bills since the government had enticed many of their members like Minister Nyachae over to the other side where they had become “toothless bulldogs.” Nyachae stood on a point of order and said that this was the first time anyone had ever questioned his performance credentials. Ahenda then withdrew his statement saying that what he meant was that the government had taken many of their most vibrant/articulate members of the opposition to their side.

MP Joe Nyagah argued against adjournment saying that parliament had not passed many bills, which had been introduced, and these would all die. One of them is a vital anti-money laundering bill, which he brought to the house

Assistant Minister Machage (a doctor) stood and said that the irritability & combativeness of members we were witnessing, and the frequent passage of bills without quorum are all symptoms of fatigue among members and the remedy of this is rest & relaxation i.e. adjournment. MP Ayacko stood on a point of order to challenge the minister saying that he has cast aspersions on the health of all of them, including the speaker and that “is he claiming that the work parliament is doing is illegal (passing bills without quorum)?” Machage said he had been misunderstood it is a fact (lack of quorum) but maintained that members need the holiday break.

Minister Amos Kimunya argued for the adjournment saying that the government had done its work, and parliament had passed the bills, which were ready. He mentioned that sitting for another week or two would not necessarily mean that any more bills would be passed. He said members could continue to work on bills through committees over the next few months. One MP stood on a point of order to state the committee work ended on December 1. Kimunya clarified that members could meet over the break at other venues away from parliament and fine-tune bills. He added that it was mockery for half-hearted/incomplete bills to be brought to the house for members to making a hundred amendments to them. He also urged them to consider the parliamentary staff who had already made holiday plans with their families and ended by urging MP’s to go home and work on the CDF projects they had with the funds that had been allocated to them.

MP Sirma argued that the state of insecurity was bad. He also mentioned the killing of political parties in this parliament to which Asst. Minister Raphael Wanjala replied that KANU itself had killed FORD – splitting it into four parties.

Minister John Michuki made a brief speech supporting adjournment. Throughout his speech members of the oppositions made hissing sounds until he sat down.

Assistant Minister Moroto also spoke about insecurity saying the Kenya Army had killed his people.

MP Nkaissery
(a former Army General) challenged Moroto for questioning the integrity of the armed forces. He asked how Moroto could question integrity of armed forces? He said that the current president (Mwai Kibaki) was at the time of that operation the chairman of the committee on security and authorised it and they never killed anybody, only arrested cattle rustlers. This lively argument between the two members cheered on by the rest of the house looked to be getting out of hand and the speaker ejected both Moroto and Nkaissery from the chambers for the rest of the day. Assistant Minister Kamama also rushed to the front of the house without being invited by the speaker and asked about Nkaissery’s statement was also ejected for revisiting the matter.

Assistant Minister Kiunjuri spoke for adjournment saying that oppositions MP’s were against adjournment since they were ashamed/afraid of going home because this government has worked hard and delivered and yet they would be defeated to explain to their constituents what they had accomplished during all the years they were in charge.

MP Mutula Kilonzo said the house should not adjourn until the matter of Kenya’s representatives at the East African Legislative Assembly is settled since it is holding up their work in Arusha. He was challenged on that point by Ministers Martha Karua and John Koech.

MP Anthony Kimetto was against adjournment but he would vote for it if only the government would add roads funds to the CDF kitty, as they had promised. He said MP’s want to go home, but cannot because of the poor state of their roads. He added that the only good roads were those to Ministers homes – a point which was immediately challenged by Roads Minister Nyachae who said that they had worked very hard in the year to reduce the number of impassable roads in the country, and added that the road to his home area (and that of Minister Konchellah) was one of the worst roads.

Other observations:
- One opposition MP made the point that member bills they contribute are rarely heard since ¾ of the time is allocated to government business/bills

- One MP (opposition) stood to say that his party had not given him a chance to speak this year and just wanted to say a word before parliament adjourned for the year.

This hour of debate was very lively and there were 60 to 90 members throughout even though it was well past the typical 6:30 PM deadline when parliament usually adjourns. The opposition numbers would ebb and flow while the government side maintained a solid block through the hour, always appearing to have a slight majority of numbers. The speaker gave his ruling at 7:30 saying that he would allow all willing members to continue with their contributions/be heard.

Later on parliament adjourned after 7:45 PM and read on in the standing orders about the division bell where votes are counted.

- Quirk for the Lit Fest crowd: standing orders also require an MP to stick to the language he starts his speech. I.e. start in English, argue throughout in English, or start in Swahili give your speech in Swahili – so no back and forth switch between languages which would sound like sheng

5:30 to 6:30 in Parliament on Wednesday December 5

Posted by on 11th December 2006

Categories: News

Toward the end of the second last day before a four month Christmas holiday for holders of the best job in Kenya, debate and bills were passed with about 40 MP’s present including ministers Michuki, Karua, Nyachae, assistants Mungatana, Kiunjuri, Machage, Wamwere, Mugo, Kibunguchy. Justin Muturi led the opposition bench.

Energy bill passed

The second reading of the energy bill contained numerous changes, which had been made by MP’s at the committee stage, and all amendments had to be announced and passed separately. So for almost an hour the sequence of dialogue was like;
(Temporary) speaker: “section 54 be passed”
Assistant minister Mwangi Kiunjuri would stand up and “propose that section 54 as amended in the order paper be passed”

Speaker: “vote for section 54 as amended in the order paper be passed,

All those in favour say AYE – all MP’s “AYE”

All those opposed say NAY – MP’s silent

The Aye’s have it

Section 55

Then

Section 56

Or section 99 – 101 same routines went on with occasional breaks.

As each section was read, sometimes an MP would step up and call for slight tweaks in the bill e.g. MP Weya asked that electrical appliances be added to a list of regulated/standardized equipment imported into the country while MP Olweny successfully lobbied for wording to the effect that bill would encourage/enable sugar to be promoted as a source of electricity production

After all the clauses, had been clear and supplements had been approved, Kiunjuri asked that the second reading be passed.

Then energy minister Kiraitu Murungi stood and thanked MP’ of both sides of the house and the energy committees’ members for their contributions. He said he would work hard to ensure that electricity was distributed throughout Kenya.

Assistant minister Machage then added that, even as he recognised that the minister was hard working and committed and able to do his tasks, he urged the Minister to look into the rural electrification program which has lapsed.

After that the 3rd reading of the bill was announced, the Energy Bill was passed with unanimous AYES

HIV Aids prevention and management bill

Assistant minister Enoch Kibungucy announced the second reading of the bill. A committee represented by MP Maoka Maore had no changes/amendments and approved of the bill, so minister called for 3 rd reading of the bill, which also passed with unanimous “Aye’s.” MP Maore then warned that the recent statistics showing AIDS prevalence had declined should not lull Kenyans into a false state of safety and that the disease was still a major threat

The business of the day basically done and most MP’s slowly drifted out of the chamber.

Pubic accounts committee report

MP Magara (opp.) proposed adoption of two pubic accounts committee’s report of the government accounts for the years 1999 – 2001. He would not take much time but chose to highlight two items

- That procurement and renovation of a parliamentary building was featured in the report. He said that to this day, building which is still not adequate for most MP’s and yet its renovation costs were almost as much as the building cost itself – and he hoped that action had by now been taken on that matter, saying parliament should be a model institution in the use of public funds

- 100 million shillings from the education budget were paid towards the construction of colleges in the 90′s and yet nothing was done

MP Arunga (govt) seconded the report, but added that it was sad that the report was discussing misappropriations that happened/were investigated 5 years ago. He hoped that these reports/investigations would be made more current otherwise corruption would never end.
He believed that government knows how several instance of recurring corruption take place but had not put effective measures in place to curb it. He highlighted:

- Tax collection where a company that owed the government 2 billion in taxes, was advised by the KRA to go to court and challenge payment of the amount

- Also no taxes are paid (by many companies) for goods in transit. The goods are sold locally yet their documents are stamped all along the road indicating that they left the country

- Roads are still being constructed at inflated prices. He said he built a road in his home area for ½ million shillings yet a nearby road constructed by the ministry was billed to the government at 6X the amount per kilometre. He lamented that contractors have become very rich by fleecing the government through road construction He said a well known technique was for a contractor to bid for the same contract using several dummy companies – thereafter the lower bids companies which were awarded the contracts would withdraw from the process, leaving the higher priced contracts in place to do the job. He also said roads collapse each year because of overweight loads, which are allowed only because bribes are paid at the weighbridges. He lamented that this has gone on for years, yet committees are always discussing things many years later. He said that by the time parliament discusses what happened this year, Minister Michuki will have retired and be herding goats at home.

Michuki got up and commented to the house that the MP was being presumptuous as he had no goats.

Arunga then replied that he meant to say that he’ll have retired and be watching over his (Windsor) hotel.

Michuki stood again to challenge this remark and asked the MP to withdraw his remarks since he does not control/know the destiny of the Minister. Arunga then withdrew his comment

MP Syongoh (opp.) said it was a shame they were discussing accounts of 5 years ago. He urged the government to speed up computerisation of revenue collection and appropriations. He said unless things change, the government would not investigate Anglo Leasing till 10 years down the road.

Assistant Minister Koigi Wamwere said he had toured many roads and lamented the corruption in road construction. He had visited parts of the country where roads were paid for but never built. He said road contractors themselves cut corners and are ignorant about how many years roads they build should last, adding that it was shameful that roads built by colonialists lasted for 30 years while roads we build can’t survive 3 years He also said that the Attorney General has failed in the advice that he gave the Moi government as well the current one and as such, they have gotten into contracts that have ripped off the country. He said the AG should have retired long ago, but keeps up at his job to the detriment of citizens

It was now 6:30 and the Speaker adjourned the house proceedings to the next day when the committee could continue with its presentation.

Parliament in the news

Posted by on 17th November 2006

Categories: News

- MPs pass Finance Bill but shoot down critical amendments. More detailed reporting on the vote can be found here.

- MP Billow Kerrow on why the Finance Bill amendments were shot down.

- Legislators should sustain spirit of Finance Bill debate .

- Insurance bill approved by Parliament. Only 9 MPs contributed to the debate and the bill was passed without the requisite quorum. Only 22 MPs were present instead of the required 30.

- 7th public university approved by Parliament

- Anti-money laundering bill presented in Parliament. You can access a draft copy of the bill here.

- MPs cautioned by Speaker against asking questions of personal interest.

Standing Orders

Posted by on 8th November 2006

Categories: Mzalendo News

Yet another milestone!

Doubtlessly you have heard about this mysterious thing called “Standing Orders”, the rules and regulations that govern the operations of Parliament. I’m sure, like many, you have wondered what these rules and regulations are.

Well wonder no more — you can read them here.

They make for quite some interesting reading!

Kudos to the Zambian Parliament

Posted by on 7th November 2006

Categories: Uncategorized

In comparison to their Kenyan counterparts who are still engaged in a snoozefest, the Zambian Parliament has a pretty snazzy website.

Parliament in the news

Posted by on 4th November 2006

Categories: News

(Observation…the reporting on Parliament in Kenya really leaves a lot to be desired).

- Survey on MP and government performance in Parliament is released.

- And predictably, MPs criticize report on their performance.

- Survey on MPs performance in Parliament should paint a clear picture.

- Time for Parliament to change the way they do business.

- Committee to hire 210 CDF coordinators.

- Twenty quizzed on CDF theft.

Attending Parliament: Answering MP’s questions

Posted by on 31st October 2006

Categories: News

Sorry. this should have been posted before the EALA one.

Part 2

by anonymous

2:30 – 3: 30 Thursday October 26

The Session started with Ministries answering questions that had been previously put to them by MP’s.

Assistant State Minister, John Serut answered a question that has been posed by Ndhiwa MP Orwa Ojode about projects initiated by a donor body in his constituency, and he mentioned the projects completed, in progress, their cost etc. But when he sat Ojode replied very forcefully that only 2 boreholes had been dug, the rest of the money was spent on seminars in Webuye. Serut again read his list, naming a few but speaker cut him off saying he should not read them all if they were too long. Ojode now claimed that the list was a fake, as he’s the MP and knows what’s on the ground. Serut then said that the Ministry would set up a proper visit to evaluate the status of the projects.

Education assistant minister Kilemi Mwiria answered a question from an MP from a constituency in Kisii district who had asked about the number of high schools, students & teachers in his constituency and how many passed KCSE exams and were admitted to university. Upon further questioning by the MP, Mwiria explained that the low university admission rate was due to apparent disadvantage that district schools suffered to national school, and which the government was working to correct. He also asked other MP’s to help such schools by ensuring that they get the best teachers – i.e. teachers employed on merit, not because they knew MP or what religion they were.

Assistant Water Minister Aden Sugow answered a question on the Nzoia Water Company posed by Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi, saying the company set up in 2005, and that while it was true that some previous managers had been dismissed for graft, and the company had made a loss of 14m last year, it was now getting up and running to offer better services. MP Davies Nakitare chipped in that the company should tap water from a higher source and use gravity for distribution, rather than from lower point and use fuel to pump it upwards and the minister said they would consider that.

Agriculture Minister Kipruto Kirwa answered a question about the revival of the pyrethrum sector saying that companies would only be licensed to deal in the crop after passage of the 2006 pyrethrum bill. One MP challenged him to state that his office has not dealt with a company called Midlands, who had already been licensed in Nynandarua, and the Minister replied that they were licensed for research only and he would monitor their activities. Another MP challenged him to ensure that debts owed to pyrethrum farmers are settled before any new companies are licensed or funded in the sector.

Questions for Ministers

- Moyale MP wanted the minister of state in charge of special programs to explain how the government was responding to the floods that has destroyed infrastructure and homes in Moyale.

- Kasarani MP William Omondi, wanted the Minister of state in charge of internal security to respond to the insecurity in Kahawa area where a gang has been going round killing people in close proximity to a police station with no action taken.

Justice Minister, Martha Karua, replied to the Speaker that these questions, posed to the Office of the President, will be answered next Thursday

Other observations
- A few MP questions were dropped since they were not in the house. Assistant minister Robison Githae pointed out that since absent Ministers were being admonished by the Speaker, he should similarly admonish MPs who fail to appear when their questions are scheduled to be answered.

- At one point, Ojode, in challenging an assistant minister about wrong government statistics, appeared to end his argument with the word pumbavu. Ken Nyagudi the asked the speaker for clarification and Ojode interjected that if speaker could not hear, how could MP hear the word? Later he apologized, but said that the word is used from leaders at the top.

- There was plenty of noise in the chamber from conversations on both sides and twice, Adelina Mwau, the assistant minister for labour, had to ask for the speakers’ intervention to make MP’s repeat their questions to her which she was unable to hear over the noise. Kaparo repeatedly asked MP’s to take their conversations outside and allow house business to continue.

- Speaker Kaparo announced that the matters of East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) MP’s would be discussed at 5 pm since it was an urgent matter to be resolved that day as his office would need time to verify nominee names and qualifications.

Attending Parliament: The EALA controversy and the Licences Bill

Posted by on 30th October 2006

Categories: News

3rd of 3 reports by anonymous
5:30 to 6:30 Thursday October 26
EALA

Walk into parliament just as the controversial issue of parliamentary nominations of the east African legislation assembly (EALA). MP Nicholas Biwott is speaking before an almost full house and gloating, defending the nomination rules, saying last time shoe was on other foot for both Martha Karua and Raila Odinga. He also hoped Narc would get her house in order like KANU had with the nominations.

MP Mwandawiro Mghanga said that MP’s parliament the flawed nomination process was due to the nature of parties like Ford-P whose ticket he came to parliament on but whose members abandoned him when they all trooped to become government ministers. At this point, Ford-P chairman, and Roads Minister Simeon Nyachae stood and replied Mghanga should stop claiming to be a Ford P MP, saying that he was not even in the members register or recognized in any capacity by the party, except this parliament, and they were waiting for elections to kick him out.

Najib Balala said it was a sad day when democracy failed, since the interests of the minority were trampled by the majority and said the speaker had failed to sort out the matter of MP’s and their parties. He added that since Narc was dead, all MP’s should resign and go home for fresh elections. Speaker Kaparo cautioned him not to revisit the matter since he had ruled on it, but Balala continued that his party would challenge the nominations before the East African court of appeals.

Speaker Kaparo then commented that the matter of MP’s and their party affiliation was something that should have been sorted out long ago, and MP’s have only themselves to blame if they felt short-changed in the process adding that the list of nominees presented by the house business committee was final. He added that, as a result, MP’s were living a lie – the fruits of which was now being seen and urged MP’s to sort out the matter since they were there and knew the genesis of the situation adding that one day there will be a new speaker and MP’s who will have no institutional memory of how the party issue become so confusing.

Assistant Minister Mwangi Kiunjuri was next and he lamented that the speaker and the house had spent so much time discussing political party matters. He said the business of the house and MP’s was to pass laws and the house should leave parties to settle their affairs away from parliament.

EA Minister John Koech tried to speak, but MP’s (largely from opposition side) called for Health Minister Ngilu to speak since she was the Narc chairperson. Ngilu said that she had followed all the nomination procedure as head of her party in terms of correspondence with the clerk of the national assembly clerk, consulted, responded and submitted names all within 14 day deadline. If rules, or the nominee lists, were changed later, so be it.

Assistant Minister Wetangula said it was wrong for MP’s like Anyang Nyongo to complain that they were being oppressed through the party nominations process.

Minister Koech finally spoke to close the debate, but as he did, almost all MP’s from the opposition side stood and walked out, leaving about 3 sitting there. Koech reiterated that the nominations were not done by force or power; but that this was the state of parliament and no rules were broken.

License Repeal

Next up was Finance minister Amos Kimunya presenting the second reading of a repeal of business licences bill. As he talked, many MP’s now from the government side also left, having completed the main business of the day, leaving about 10 MP’s on his side, debating with 4 on the opposition side. He mentioned that the bill would eliminate hundreds of licences that had been there since the colonial government and which were now repressive, hindrance to business today and which scared away new investors.

He mentioned some of them like requiring shops to not operate at certain times/days, forbade traditional alcohol brewing. He also mentioned that he had given municipal councils until December to report back to him, though their minister, on which local government licenses would also be eliminated.

Assistant minister Peter Kenneth seconded the bill with a comment that it would also help business people and spur economic growth.

MP Gor Sunguh also supported the bill, but called for more support for Kenyan entrepreneurs lamenting that (descendants of) coolies from India to this day still run shops from river road Nairobi to supplying the market as far as Kisumu. He also complained to the speaker that the bill they were discussing was no. 20 while a bill he had sponsored (no. 2) has never been brought up for debate by the house business committee.

Minister Mutahi Kagwe supported the bill, which would eliminate ridiculous provisions of the law such as requiring a rural household to get a permit before selling milk to a neighbouring household. He said significant savings would be gained from the time that would now not be wasted chasing useless licenses.

Justin Muturi supported the bill but lamented that a house committee had not gone out to popularise the positive effects of this bill to Kenyans.

Assistant Minister Wetangula said the bill would eliminate frivolous laws e.g. requirement to get a permit before constructing a cattle dip. He then lamented that members of that same committee were not in the house at present to support the bill. At this point Sunguh stood up and defended the chairman of that committee, who he said was also his father in law, saying he had spoken to and received assurance from the chairman that he fully supported the bill.

State Minister Michuki spoke to support the bill but also to alert the minister that the law on traditional alcohol will have to be clearly spelt out otherwise a repeal would have unintended effects. He pointed out that the definition of traditional alcohol is that its’ fermentation ‘had not been arrested’ i.e. it is still fermenting even as it is drunk.

The bill was then passed with unanimous Aye’s by the about 15 MP’s in the house.

Minister Kimunya then moved on to the next debate which was amendments to the Finance Bill. He mentioned that since he presented his budget in June, his office had received feedback from various bodies and that amendments would take into consideration contributions from bodies on issues like the sugar levy and insurance sector reform.

It was now 6:30 PM, and at this point a sergeant stood and signaled to the Speaker who then interrupted Minister Kimunya and adjourned house business till next Tuesday.

Observation

The (temporary) speaker was able to notice that MP David Mwanzia exited the chamber through a side door, which was illegal, and informed a sergeant to go and bring him back to explain – yet he allows debate to go on and bills be passed without a quorum in the house i.e. less than 30 MP’s.

For another view on the EALA controversy, see Edwin Mutai’s report in the Kenya Times.