Entries from October 28th, 2006

Attending parliament: Trying to get in

Posted by on 28th October 2006

Categories: News

1st of 3 reports by anonymous
Thursday October 26: 2:00 to 2:30 PM

This was our third attempt to enter parliament and there was some difficulty involved. The second time we came was at 10:00 am this morning, only to find Parliament closed. What kind of office opens at 2:30? Our Parliament! And we were told to come back at 2:00. This was a good thing because I realised why it is difficult to access parliament sometimes.

On the first attempt, we were told that the public gallery was full. And sure enough, there were two school groups waiting at the public entrance today at 2 PM. One of the parliamentary clerks was not happy about the numbers but confirmed that they would all fit. On entry into the chamber with the students, we found that there were about two other school groups already seated inside waiting. The seats filled up quickly, but there were a few random seats that were used to accommodate the whole group.

Later, another group of students filed in and were seated on the opposite side of the chamber, where invited guests of MP’s or parliament sit. So it appears that there’s a crush of students most days from about 2 to 4 PM and officials thus lock out members of the public from attending. This appears to dissipate from after 4 PM as students are taken back to their schools.

From 2 to 2:30 we sit quietly with the students facing an empty chamber. There are nervous coughs in the galley as we observe clerks of the house walk in, test the audio equipment, bring in the copies of the order paper, and other tasks as they wait for the session to start.

At 2:25 a bell rings (sounds like a school bell) and the doors of parliament are opened. MP’s file into the house and most stop to pick up copies of the order paper at the door. Women MP’s also have to leave their handbags at the entrance. As a sergeant carrying a ceremonial mace walks in, the whole room, parliamentarians and public, stand up at attention, and he is followed by speaker Kaparo. He goes to his seat and the mace is held up, MP’s on both sides bow in tune then it is laid down. Speaker Kaparo leads MP’s in words in a short prayer before they all take their seats. And the session starts..

In the News

Posted by on 18th October 2006

Categories: Uncategorized

Technology in Africa comes of Age, News From Africa September 2006

– Mzalendo mention on Zdnet.

– Grandiose Parlor (Nigerian blogger) points to Mzalendo as an example of how African bloggers can be engaged in activism.

– Bruno Giassani writes on how Mzalendo is creating demand for accountability

– BBC Focus on Africa Magazine features an article on Mzalendo’s watchdog role (Feb 07).

– Tia Goldenberg profiles Mzalendo’s work in the run-up to the 2007 election.

– Ory Okolloh speaks about Mzalendo’s role in the upcoming election to African Path.

Roundup

Posted by on 18th October 2006

Categories: News

– Kenya Parliament Team on ICT mission to Kigali. Maybe they could learn how to relaunch their website.

– The long overdue National Land Policy is scheduled to come up for debate in Parliament.

– The Parliamentary Service Commission awards itself lavish raises and perks.

– MP Joseph Lekuton featured in the Washington Post.

MP Ukur Yatani (North Horr) exemplifies the spirit of Mzalendo

Posted by on 16th October 2006

Categories: Mzalendo News

We recently made it clear that Mzalendo welcomes participation from MPs. One way in which we expected the participation to occur was through the MP comment function. When we set up the function, we relied on a healthy dose of blind faith and non-cynicism..for the comment function to truly function as we intended it we presumed MPs would read, and where pertinent respond to, comments from their constituents.

It seems that our faith and non-cynicism has been rewarded. Over the weekend, MP Ukur Yatani (North Horr) became the first MP to respond to a constituent’s question via the comment page on Mzalendo. He also updated his profile.

This is but a small step in the journey of Mzalendo, nevertheless we think that is a very important step to highlight because it demonstrates the spirit behind Mzalendo.

We often find ourselves fighting the perception that this project is generally an exercise in futility for any number of reasons. Our response:

– We are optimistic that our efforts, minimal as they are in the larger scheme of the political scene in Kenya, CAN have an impact.

– We refuse to be deterred by the fact that Mzalendo as it currently functions remains inaccessible to most Kenyans – if we spent our time worrying about how many people this site would reach the project would never have taken off – our philosophy has always been: If we build it they will come.

– We refuse to believe that NOTHING can be done to change the way our politicians and political institutions function and we refuse to believe arguments along the lines of “all Kenyan politicians are useless, so why bother?”

Rather, we believe that accountability is in most cases not self-generated – it stems from demand. Why should our politicians respond to questions that we don’t ask? Why wouldn’t they act in a manner that suggests that they don’t give a damn, if we fail to demonstrate that we do give a damn? And who knows, maybe there are some politicians who are different and who are trying to do the right thing…we just don’t know about them.

– We believe that doing nothing more than caricaturing our politicians, complaining, and waiting for the “right” candidates only reinforces the idea that our political system is a joke that is beyond redemption, we would rather spend time figuring out how to make the institutions that we have work better for us. We are better off saying that we tried and failed, rather than not have made an attempt to do something in the first place.

Thank you MP Ukur Yatani for reinforcing our belief that we are engaged in a very worthwhile endeavor!

We trust that your colleagues will see the value in this for them and for their constituents and participate as well.

Question Query

Posted by on 14th October 2006

Categories: Mzalendo News

Report from Parliament: Thursday 12 October

Posted by on 13th October 2006

Categories: News

By Mzalendo volunteer who’d like to remain anonymous.


Business:
Debate on a sessional paper on road reconstruction in Kenya that was introduced by Roads Minister, Simeon Nyachae.
Quorum: Parliament had about 20 – 30 members including Vice president Moody Awori, Ministers – Nyachae, Karua, Munyao, Assistant Ministers – Toro, Serut, Tarus, MP’s – Mwiraria, Maore, Omondi, Muturi, Biwott, Njoki Ndungi, Nakitare, Wakoli, others, and later Anthony Kimetto who prominently featured later.
Debate: Many mini conversations were going on among MP’s during the session, and after each speaker finished, an MP on opposite side would stand to contribute to debate.

MP Maore: Comments supporting the paper
– Do away with bumps, which are unnecessary, hazardous, and, nuisances that damage cars and contribute to accidents rather than road safety. He said that on the 200 km road stretch between Makutano and Maua there were about 197 bumps!
– Have weighbridges at the ports to ensure vehicles are loaded properly, not on the highway. He said currently lorries the road carry 3X the load, and enough cash to bribe their way along
– Fix traffic lights (some of which have not worked in 20 years).

Minister Munyao: Comments supporting the paper
– Questioned why/how our road engineers, who train with other road engineers around the world, cannot put together decent roads.
– do away with roundabouts which are colonial relics
– Congratulated the current minister of roads for bringing the paper forward saying there is road construction activity throughout the country. He added that he was minister for “road construction” while his predecessor was a minister who only “inspected roads and spoke of by-passes when he actually dreamt of bypasses to power”

MP Biwott: Comments supporting the paper
– Called for more equitable distribution or roads money, even if the resources were limited. – noting that 20 constituencies did not get a single cent in the budget for roads
– Also called for roundabout to be eliminated

Vice President Awori: Comments supporting the paper
– Said as much as we support local contractors, perhaps we should give more road work to foreign contractors who have more expertise and resources
– Fix traffic lights – and now that we have serious minister, give him responsibly for their maintenance (taking that away from local authorities).
– Ensure road rules are followed including respect for the white cane (used by visually impaired persons)
-Bring back road repair crews who used to have camps set up around the country and would be responsible for road maintained at local level.
-Perhaps its time we do away with repairs on murram roads. In this constituency last year 70 million shillings worth of work was done to put murram on gravel roads – but once the rains came they washed away all that work. Instead we should concentrate on tarmacking roads – fewer will be done, it will take longer, but roads will last longer and be better.

MP Nakitare: Comments supporting the paper in Swahili
-Disappointed that our engineers and planners never foresaw growth when they designed roads long ago. At the time, cars were a luxury for only a few, now they are a necessity.
– Lamented previous policy to disband government road repair crews – who then sold equipment to private contractors. Contracts don’t maintain roads, they only build them – and now ministry headquarters are out of touch with the state of roads at local level.

Conclusion

As another MP stood to speak at around 6:20 PM, MP Kimetto who had been sitting on a back bench stood up, got the speaker’s attention and said: “Mr. Speaker is it proper for us to discuss this important debate with out a quorum?”

Speaker noted “yes we don’t have a quorum” – and in the background, a bell was rang and some officials exited the chamber to summon MP’s. Government whip Norman Nyagah entered and asked one official how many MP’s were needed before he dashed out again. MP’s would stream back in one by one, many asking “who alerted the speaker?” – and Kimetto would be pointed out. A few of them went over to talk to him and clearly they were not happy that business had been interrupted.

Nyagah came back in shaking his head and some officials also confirmed to the speaker that there were not enough MP’s in the area to continue. So at 6:30 Pm, the Speaker adjourned parliament till Tuesday morning and led MP’s out.

Introduction of the Freedom of Information Bill

Posted by on 10th October 2006

Categories: Motions

Motion Date: 2006-10-04
Moved By: Nyong’o, Anyang’ Peter (Prof.)
Sponsor: Individual MP
Motion Type: Procedural motions
Content
THAT, this House grants leave for the introduction of a Bill for an Act of Parliament entitled the Freedom of Information Bill for the purposes of nurturing information resources as a tool for development
Analysis

Privatization of State Corporations

Posted by on 10th October 2006

Categories: Motions

Motion Date: 2006-10-04
Moved By: Awiti, Paul Adhu (Dr.)
Sponsor: Individual MP
Motion Type: Substantive Motions
Content
THAT, being aware that most State Corporations are the economic mainstay of the country; this House urges the Government not to undertake any privatization exercise until a Sessional paper on privatization, outlining the merits and demerits of privatizing each State Corporation, is prepared to the House for consideration.
Analysis

Free Secondary Education for AIDS oprhans

Posted by on 10th October 2006

Categories: Motions

Motion Date: 2006-10-04
Moved By: Ole Metito, Katoo
Sponsor: Goverments
Motion Type: Substantive Motions
Content
THAT, given the debilitating effects of HIV/AIDS in the country, taking into cognizance of the high number of orphans estimated at 1.2 million; noting the increased primary school enrolment occasioned by free primary education; and further noting that the increase is not reflected in secondary schools, this House urges the Government to implement free secondary education program for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and other causes.
Analysis

An hour in Parliament – October 5

Posted by on 6th October 2006

Categories: News

5: 30 to 6 30 in parliament (October 5)

About 30 members in the house – 20 on government side, and 10 on opposition side, and the numbers will have dwindled to about 10 by the bottom of the hour.

Some familiar faces: Ministers Martha Karua, Henry Obwocha, Kivutha Kibwana, whip Norman Nyagah, Njoki Ndungu, John Serut, Linah Kilimo and others. Joining later will be Minister John Katuku, Wangari Mathai, Henry Kosgey, GG Kariuki, Kalembe Ndile (who walked in a khaki KWS ranger outfit to call Kivutha out of the house for a talk), Jane Kihara, and Reuben Ndolo and others.

As usual, there are numerous camps engaging in conversations while house proceedings are going on.

Minister Obwocha finishes the second reading of the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) Bill, and it is passed with unanimous “Aye’s”

Justin Muturi, chairman of the Public Investments Committee was up next: He reviewed the work of the committee over the year, including dozens of meetings, site visits, review of numerous state corporation accounts and matters in those accounts raised/queried by the comptroller & auditor general.

He cited only a few issues which are contained in the extensive committee report to the house

1. Commended government for setting up of state corporations advisory committee – and facilitating for the “Big 5” – namely the AG, PS Treasury, PS Public Service, Comptroller & Auditor General, and the Head of Civil Service – to meet with the committee as they deliberate on their issues.
2. Maize importation during the drought was irregularly done and the government needs to tighten its procedures in future.
3. Failure to prosecute cases recommend by the PIC committee. He used the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) as an example where the committees had over the years recommend, in the 80’s 90’s and 00’s, that charges be brought against top official of the corporation.

– Several cases initiated against the same people e.g. a Tirop, a Mugwe, a Magut, a company called Raspel and others. These included loss of 500 million shillings, a 7 million theft, and irregular surrender & sale of a plot on Loita Street.

– In each case, the CID would call in/question suspects in preparation for charges and each time the AG’s office would call for the case files for “perusal and advice” and sometimes suspects would be ordered to be released by the AG.

– As a result cases never took off. One which did was thrown out since the judge said too long had lapsed. The State said it would appeal, but never did.

The PIC questioned this and the answers it got were a back-and forth blame game between the AG’s office and the CID – leading them to conclude that there was a deliberate or clear lack of will to prosecute these case. Sometimes AG said cases were not ready or had no staff to prosecute.

The committee, even as it recommended that the AG’s office hire more and pay staff better, was concerned that there was no will to prosecute these cases, right at the top (AG). He lamented that the committee and parliament would only be paying lip service to the fight against corruption unless the AG’s office was willing to prosecute these cases. He asked that the committee be empowered to instruct, rather than recommend that the AG prosecute these cases.

It was now 6:30 and the Speaker (not Kaparo) adjourned proceedings until next Wednesday (Tuesday October 10 is a public holiday) when Muturi will continue with his committee report.