In the time since the constitution was promulgated, just over a year ago, there have been three suggested constitutional amendments: the most well known the Cabinet proposed amendment to change the date of the election from the second week in August to a date in December. There has also been the proposition to amend the constitution to ensure that the 2/3-gender principle is achieved with regard to elected positions in the 2012 election. Most recently Ndaragwa MP, Jeremiah Kioni, has made a proposition to amend the constitution to remove the senate.
The reasons put forward for scraping the senate are: the expense, basically the Senate would cost too much further burdening the tax payer who will be footing the bill for the national assembly, the senate, the county assemblies, and the numerous additional seats created by the constitution. The MP also has also questioned the value that the Senate will add governance-wise stating that having Senate will only serve to duplicate roles that are already to be performed by either the national or county governments.
At face value the arguments for scrapping the Senate seem almost palatable, particularly the argument on the additional tax burden to be placed on the citizenry. However when the functions that Senate will perform in a devolved government and the checks and balances that the Senate provides with regard to relations between the national and county assemblies are scrutinised the proposition to scrap the organ seems untenable.
The Senate was created to protect the interests of counties and to participate in the law-making function of Parliament as it concerns the counties. The Senate is also charged with determining the allocation of national revenue among counties as well as exercising oversight over national revenue allocated to the county governments. Finally the senate is expected to participate in the oversight of State officers by considering and determining any resolution to remove the President or Deputy President.
There is nothing to say to that these roles cannot be transferred to either the national or the county governments making the need for a Senate obsolete. However can we always rely on Parliament to act in the best interest of the counties even if its own interests are threatened? Would the county assemblies to provide oversight over budgetary allocation made to them? Who would determine the budgetary allocation to the counties – the county governments or the national government?
Based on the Senate’s role as described in the constitution removing the organ would only result in more questions about how the national and county governments would relate. Yes, the Senate could be scrapped but a whole lot of conflicts and situations of conflict of interest would arise, so before we go about amending the constitution, why not make more of an effort implementing it?