The raging supremacy war between the Senate and the National Assembly over budgetary allocations are unfortunate and against public interest. The two houses have severally fought over their mandates and from time to time, taken parallel positions over Bills, decisions or some assertions. This current public spat over the budget should never happen.
The creation of the two houses was informed by history and the need to protect devolution. Senate has the mandate to ensure devolution works and services it is supposed to render through county government take place efficiently. The National Assembly on the other hand has its mandate in national functions. From time to time, the two houses need to consult on various bills before a decision is made and the Bill taken to the President for assent.
The National Assembly slashed Senate’s Sh1 billion allocation to senators for monitoring and evaluation, Sh800 million from the Judiciary’s budget and Sh200 million from the SRC in the budget for the financial year 2015/16. Senators wanted the money to monitor various projects undertaken by their counties. MPs argued that the figure is wasteful and should actually not have been allocated in the first instance.
Senators saw the budgetary cut as a punishment and anti-devolution. On the other hand, the Judiciary took the flak because of the 2013 advisory opinion that the Supreme Court made making it mandatory for the two Houses to be involved in legislating on the revenue bill. The Judiciary has since further ruled that the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) should be restructured as it is unconstitutional.
Angry senators criticized the MPs for being “vengeful and vindictive” in slashing budgets for constitutional organs and institutions that they considered unfriendly to them. Discussing a motion to establish a select committee to inquire into what they see as the excesses of the MPs, senators described the National Assembly a “a rogue House lacking in wisdom and experience” that must be tamed.
Budget making is a shared function in which Parliamentarians should demonstrate great soberness in making decisions affecting the Counties and the National functions respectively.
Budget making determines how the national cake will be distributed for a certain financial year. It also lays the foundation for the collection of taxes and other measures meant to ensure the public are better off than the previous year. As such, it is the most crucial document and process for the growth of a country. It is also one that can make or break a people.
Though wrangles are not always a bad thing, as they help bring out differences to be settled. In this case, leaders need to put public interest issues first before their personal differences to ensure the public gets value for their representation.
To reduce tension going forward, parliamentarians need to put in place an inclusive system with representation from both chambers to discuss the issues they want to prioritize during the budget process. What do you think?