Parliament’s adoption of the vetting committee recommendations signals end of their oversight role

Posted by on 19th February 2018

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If there’s a time Kenyans need to take public participation in parliamentary business seriously, that time is now. The recent vetting of the nine nominees and the subsequent adoption of recommendations by the same is an indication that the 12th Parliament is officially a rubberstamp for the Executive.

One only needs to consider the tone of President Uhuru when talking to Jubilee MPs during a recent Parliamentary Group (PG) meeting at State House Nairobi to realize the challenge we’re facing with the 12th Parliament.

The President’s demand that the Jubilee MPs toe the party line a few days before Parliament was due to debate the report by the vetting committee was a sign they were to adopt the report as presented.  This was a committee that was obviously doing the bidding of the executive considering how they dealt with the two-thirds gender question that activists and lobby groups brought up. They limited the law only to the nine nominees with full knowledge that indeed the cabinet was composed of 22 CSs.

While Parliament has suffered transparency challenges throughout our short independent history, the 12th Parliament is unique in this challenge because of the politics NASA has adopted that’s denying the House a much needed critical voice.

Jubilee MPs spent a great deal of time on the campaign trail promoting Jubilee agenda and the re-election of President Uhuru and his deputy so much so that, it would be unjustifiable to expect the same MPs to now attempt to offer any objective debate on the floor of the House regarding the Jubilee agenda for the country.

Opposition MPs therefore counter the sycophancy displayed by those in the ruling party and are able to help the House check the Executive powers accordingly. And that has been possible the past few years until now. NASA’s decision to abscond duty in the name of ‘illegitimate authority’ is giving Jubilee MPs a field day and they are enjoying every bit of it.

This is why NASA MPs must now ask themselves what value they are offering their constituents in deciding to abscond Parliamentary sessions but continue to draw salaries nonetheless. The Jubilee MPs are doing exactly what is expected of them; in fact seeing as majority of the MPs supported President Uhuru, we can reason their constituents are satisfied with the recommendations as adopted. What about those Kenyans who disagreed? Who speaks for them in Parliament?

While we are alive to the fact that Parliament could still approved the names because of the ‘tyranny of numbers’ Jubilee commands; the voice of the few would’ve been heard and perhaps even some Jubilee MPs would have been persuaded to reject some of the nominees. Basically, the minority voice counts and can drive the agenda if the MPs bring solid arguments.

The lack of a critical voice in key matters affecting the direction of this country is a sign we are now on our own and must find ways of getting more involved now that NASA MPs appear unsure which issues are important to the public.

The civil society must remain vigilant and ensure the power of the State remains checked and must not tire to raise concerns about abuse of power by the government. The civil society must continue pushing for good governance and reforms.

In the meantime Kenyans must pay keen attention to Parliamentary proceedings; take note of bills before Parliament and think about submitting your contributions because as long as NASA MPs cherry-pick issues they think are important, we can no longer rely on them for effective representation. We are now the oversight, the main line of defense.