Parliament 2018; the Year in Review

Posted by on 11th December 2018

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Slightly over a year ago when MPs and Senators took their oath of office; nobody could’ve imagined a Jubilee and NASA lawmaker agreeing on anything. Coming on the backdrop of a divisive and controversial election that saw the nullification of the Presidential elections; the 12th Parliament started on the wrong footing.

Parliament has officially adjourned until February 2019, although National Assembly will be having a special sitting on Tuesday 18th. Here’s a review of the August House, the past 15 months.

The 12th Parliament’s performance has been dismal to say the least. Firstly, they wasted nearly half of the year fighting useless wars between the government and opposition MPs that only injured the common man. The least said about Opposition NASA MPs’ decision to abscond Parliamentary sessions, yet drawing salaries and sitting allowances the better.

There’s little tangible evidence that MPs or Senators did anything meaningful the first few months up until the handshake. In a rather surprising turn of events, Parliamentarians from both the ruling Jubilee and opposition NASA found new cooperation after the President and his opposition counterpart shook hands on the steps of Harambee House and announced the Building Bridges Initiative shortly after.

The handshake and the falling in line by MPs from both sides was a great learning opportunity for Kenyans. It revealed a most unprincipled, probably uncaring group of leaders. While the decision by the two opposing leaders to come together brought with it peace and ended the violence, mostly in the opposition turfs – perpetrated by the police – it also showed how the common man is but a pawn in a rich man’s game.

Nine solid months have passed after the much publicized handshake but baby Moraa, baby Pendo and all those who lost their lives during elections are yet get any justice. In fact none of the opposition supporters who suffered personal loss as a result of the political violence have gotten any form of justice. The MPs representing these areas have also since forgotten having adopted the government’s slogan on the Big Four Agenda.

The first year of the 12th Parliament was characterized with petty fights – sometimes physical – mostly in the National Assembly. As a matter of fact, Senate just like in the 11th Parliament remained the sober House, often carrying out their debates with decorum. Indeed, the Senate debated more Bills the past 15months compared to the National Assembly.

Another highlight of the 12th Parliament the past year was corruption. The country in general was hit hard by a wave of corruption touching on senior government officials leading to the loss of billions. While these scandals kept the Parliamentary Watchdog Committees so busy; they also revealed to us the greedy nature of our legislature. There were cases of duplication of roles as both Houses ended up investigating the same scandals – inviting the same suspects to respond to similar questions which made the public question whether there was proper value for money.

The duplication of investigations also brought back the sibling rivalry between the two Houses with the National Assembly accusing the Senate of boar dorm and greed; forming committees with a view to investigate what was already being investigated at the National Assembly, just to earn sitting allowances. Interestingly, the same committees set in both Houses to investigate the scandals were also found wanting with numerous allegations of MPs and more recently Senators being bribed to shoot down reports.

In short from the sugar scandal that saw sugar farmers make losses, NYS season II (Sh9 billion), Kenya Power (Sh5 billion transformers), Kenya Pipeline (Sh95 billion), Maize scandal (Sh11.3 billion) to the Sh1.5 billion controversial Ruaraka Land saga among others; the investigations by Parliament have achieved nothing besides giving the legislators sitting allowances in the committees. No money has since been recovered.

It’s safe to say 2018 in general was the year of corruption scandals. Worse still, the government has been on a borrowing spree that has seen the national debt rise to worrying levels but our MPs haven’t done much to challenge this, except for the increment on 8% VAT. In a dramatic passing of the 8% VAT through the Finance Bill,2018 the House leadership; including the National Assembly Speaker, leaders of both majority and minority as well as the whips allegedly engineered a quorum hitch to see the Bill sail contrary to the wishes of Wanjiku.

Overall we can say the handshake effectively killed the voice of opposition in Parliament thereby killing the oversight role of the Legislature as majority MPs in the opposition supported government Bills that were unpopular, including the Finance Bill, 2018.

The 12th Parliament has a long way to go in so far as having meaningful debates are concerned if the past year is anything to go by. A lot of key Bills were debated from either partisan or biased perspective with little regard for what the common mwananchi really wants. A case in point was the two-thirds gender Bill. It became an issue of male MPs vs Female MPs and this became the public debate completely drowning the main point behind the two-thirds principle. We hope future debates on such emotive topics will done more responsibly.

Lastly but not least, the media has continued covering the lawmakers more outside the House; in burial and public rally functions where MPs make utterances and promises that remain controversial. It’s our informed opinion that if the media covered MPs more while debating in the House, Wanjiku will come to understand more the role of MPs and therefore make realistic demands on their elected leaders.

Majority MPs say the right things on radio and TV talk shows but are unable to follow up these conversations on the floor of the House leading us to conclude they’re playing for the galary. It’s for this reason that we run an annual award in honor of those lawmakers who remain focused on issues of great interest to Wanjiku. As the President honors diligent Kenyans on December 12th at Mzalendo we honor those Parlamentarians who sponsored Bills, moved motions or petitions on behalf of the majority Kenyans as People’s Shujaaz Awards.