One of the things we plan to do with Mzalendo.com is have the Hansard available online, dating back to 2003 in a searchable format.
The Hansard is the verbatim report of the proceeding of the house outlining all the debate taking place in the house, capturing the contribution of every member — questions, responses and debate in the house.
Reading the Hansard can be quite the eye opener, because much of what goes on in the house never gets reported in the press, and it is these oversights that lead to the abuse of the parliamentary process by parliamentarians.
For example, here are some stunning excerpts from the Hansard concerning the acrimonious passing of the Internal Security budget last week.
Participating in the debate are Internal Security Minister John Michuki, Shadow Finance Minister Billow Kerrow, Raila Odinga, Eric Gor Sungu, Kirungi M’Mukinidia, Jakoyo Midiwo, Justin Muturi, Orwa Ojodeh, Planning Minister Henry Obwocha, Justice Minister Martha Karua and Ochilo Ayacko
Kerrow: Some of the expenses which the minister has mentioned now as ‘Other Operating Expenses’ have got sub-heads and items that we can use such as legal expenses. If you add all of them within the Office of the President vote, it amounts to Sh535 million. That is our concern.
Michuki: These estimate books used to comprise huge volumes that were sometimes impossible to bring to this. Like now, if we sent the General Service Unit out, how will they move to various places? We have to cater for this eventuality, which is very difficult to estimate.
Odinga: With regards to ‘Specialised Materials and Supplies’, last year, there was a provision for Sh109.27 million. This time round, the minister is asking for Sh214 million. Can we be told what these specialised materials and supplies are?
Michuki: Those are security items.
Kerrow: It is this House that is required to scrutinise the itemised expenditures of this Ministry. Is he (Michuki) in order to hide under the cover of national security as he often does? In the case of financial expenditure, he should give us the breakdown.
Sunguh: Could the minister explain what specialised materials and supplies are? I hope it is not a question of national security this time.
Michuki: Even the gallant, Maj-General (rtd) here (Kajiado Central MP Joseph Nkaisserry) here knows that a specialised equipment is a specialised equipment.
Odinga: It is our responsibility to scrutinise the expenditure, but the Chair is denying us that opportunity. It appears as if the Chair is allowing ‘voting machines’ on the Government side to raise whatever they want and we, on this side, just rubber-stamp it. We are not prepared to be used as rubber-stamps!
M’Mukindia: I ought to tell Mr Raila that he is imputing improper motives on the part of the Chair, and that is not acceptable. We have to conduct this business in a way that shows decorum and respect for one another. Once the question has been put, that is it and we move on!
Kerrow: When you read 10 heads at once, how are we expected to raise queries? If you are not going to give us time to understand the issues, you better just ask us to say yes or no for the whole vote. That is a joke. It is ridiculing the House.
M’Mukindia: We have had the printed estimates for a long time. This is not the time to read it.
Midiwo: We might be the minority on this side, but we deserve to be heard. We demand that right. When the minister is being queried on what he wants to use taxpayers’ money on, he stands up and says: ‘A specialised equipment is a specialised equipment.’ I think that is the lowest that this Parliament can get to.
Muturi: A whopping Sh200 million has been allocated for the purchase of specialised plant, equipment and machinery for the Presidential Escort. What plant is that? These are policemen on motorbikes! What specialised equipment do they need?
Michuki: The amounts are to purchase networking communication equipment, including their installation for the Presidential Escort Unit. Those equipment that are in use now do not have spare parts.
Ojodeh: The cost of the specialised materials is Sh1.2 billion. Let him (the minister) explain to us what these specialised items in every police department are.
Michuki: I have actually stated in this House many times before that this nation must take care of itself. If you want to tell the world the details of every security equipment that we have, do not do that through me.
Odinga: The Presidential Escort Unit is currently heavily furnished with very many vehicles. Why is it necessary, in the face of declared frugality, to provide Sh200 million just for the Unit?
Obwocha: If he went to The Gambia, he would know that the President of that country has two big armoured limousines – I am telling him because he wants to become President.
Karua: Since it appears as if honourable members do not understand or appreciate security issues, their personal bodyguards, who are not a requirement of the law, should be withdrawn.
Ayacko: There is a point that Ms Karua has and I want to correct it. If you look at the Parliamentary Service Commission Act and the provisions by the (Justice) Cockar Report, it (provision of personal bodyguards) is a right and an entitlement to all MPs.
(In protest, some MPs from the Opposition benches withdraw from the Chamber)
An MP: Where are they going? There are no World Cup matches!
Muturi: The Government Printer has always existed. Could the minister explain to us whether he is going to put up another building at Sh40 million? Is he proposing to relocate?
Michuki: We are not relocating, but the buildings are all dilapidated.
Kerrow: When the minister was moving the vote, he mentioned that Sh960 million is meant for the construction of the forensic science laboratory. The contract for it has yet to be cancelled. Is this money going to be paid to the same contractors or is the minister going to award a new contract after he has verified and cancelled the old contract in which billions of shillings are at stake?
Michuki: If the honourable member wants to micro-manage the Government, then he better comes to my office!
Hansard Source: OWINO OPONDO, Daily Nation, 16 July (Hat tip Alexcia!)
AOB: Apparently, the Parliament’s Standing Orders (rules under which Parliament conducts its business and they regulate the way Members behave and debates are organised) are set to be reviewed, to among other things, open up the all important committee sittings to the public.