Roles & Functions

 

The agenda of the National Assembly is solely guided by the needs of the people and must seek to fulfill those needs and interests:

95. (1) The National Assembly represents the people of the constituencies and special interests in the National Assembly.
(2) The National Assembly deliberates on and resolves issues of concern to the people.

To do this, the National Assembly's primary role is to make laws that are designed to improve the welfare of the people:

(3) The National Assembly enacts legislation ........

Put another way, the National Assembly is expected to operationalise the people's document i.e., the Constitution. Chapter 18 - Transitional and Consequential Provisions, Article 261excerpts:

261. (1) Parliament shall enact any legislation required by this Constitution to be enacted to govern a particular matter ........

As the people's representatives, the members of the National Assembly have been entrusted with the stewardship of Public Funds. The sharing and distribution of these funds has been a sensitive social-political concern in the past and the people of Kenya will be looking up to the National Assembly to address the issue fairly and equitably. In line with the New Constitution, the Assembly will regularly determine the amounts of funds to allocate to governments, make arrangements for the allocation and transfer of those funds to State offices and organs that are entitled to the funds, and oversee how those funds have been utilised: 

(4) The National Assembly–– (a) determines the allocation of national revenue between the levels of government, as provided in Part 4 of Chapter Twelve; (b) appropriates funds for expenditure by the national government and other national State organs; and (c) exercises oversight over national revenue and its expenditure.

One of the key roles that the Assembly performed upon the presentation of the budget estimates by the Cabinet Secretary for Treasury, was to pass an Appropriation Bill to authorise the Treasury make withdrawals from National Funds to be used by the National Government, its organs and agencies for the July 2013/ June 2014 financial year. This was effected upon the enactment of the Appropriation Act of 2013 assented to on June 28, 2013 .

Clause 4 (c) above speaks volumes because it not only mandates the National Assembly to exercise high level scrutiny over Public Funds, it also empowers the House to amend, if need be, budgetary proposals that been approved by Constitutional bodies established to control and administer Public Funds such as the Director of Budget, the Cabinet Secretary responsible for Finance, the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary, the Commission for Revenue Allocation, etc. A case in point is the budget estimates by the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury whose allocations were further amended by the Assembly soon after being tabled in the House. This last point is well summarised by Article 226 in Chapter 12- Public Finance. Excerpts:

226. (2) The accounting officer of a national public entity is accountable to the National Assembly for its financial management, ........

Thus the Assembly must also scrutinize the reports of the Auditor General detailing how Public Funds have been spent within the three arms of government. A detailed review on Public Funds and their management is covered under the link on Public Finance.

To ensure that there are checks and balances across the arms of government, the people of Kenya have entrusted the National Assembly to fairly and firmly, appraise the conduct and decisions of the executive i.e., the Cabinet:

132. (1) The President shall—........(c) once every year— (i) report, in an address to the nation, on all the measures taken and the progress achieved in the realisation of the national values, referred to in Article 10; (ii) publish in the Gazette the details of the measures and progress under sub-paragraph (i); and (iii) submit a report for debate to the National Assembly on the progress made in fulfilling the international obligations of the Republic.

In fact, this appraisal of the President by the National Assembly could well form the basis of impeachment proceedings against the President should Parliament not be happy with the President's annual report to the Nation. Excerpts of Article 145 in Chapter 9, Part 2- The President and Deputy President: 

145. (1) A member of the National Assembly, supported by at least a third of all the members, may move a motion for the impeachment of the President— (a) on the ground of a gross violation of a provision of this Constitution or of any other law; (b) where there are serious reasons for believing that the President has committed a crime under national or international law; or (c) for gross misconduct.

95. (5) The National Assembly— (a) reviews the conduct in office of the President, the Deputy President ........

For example, it is the responsibility of the National Assembly to consider, debate and approve such critical decisions of the Cabinet like a state of emergency or war that may be declared by the President:

95. (6) The National Assembly approves declarations of war and extensions of states of emergency.

58. (2) A declaration of a state of emergency, and any legislation enacted or other action taken in consequence of the declaration, shall be effective only— (a) prospectively; and (b) for not longer than fourteen days from the date of the declaration, unless the National Assembly resolves to extend the declaration.
(3) The National Assembly may extend a declaration of a state of emergency— (a) by resolution adopted— (i) following a public debate in the National Assembly; and (ii) by the majorities specified in clause (4); and (b) for not longer than two months at a time.
(4) The first extension of the declaration of a state of emergency requires a supporting vote of at least two-thirds of all the members of the National Assembly, and any subsequent extension requires a supporting vote of at least three-quarters of all the members of the National Assembly.

Indeed, every internal deployment of the Kenya Defence Forces by the President must be approved by the National Assembly. Chapter 14 - National Security, Part 2 - The Kenya Defence Forces, excepts:

241. (3) The Defence Forces—(c) may be deployed to restore peace in any part of Kenya affected by unrest or instability only with the approval of the National Assembly.

On the 5th of December 2013, the approval of the Assembly to deploy the KDF to the Counties of Turkana, West Pokot, Samburu and Marsabit, was indeed sought by the President to bring an end to inter-ethnic fighting that threatened to degenerate into anarchy. This is a good provision: by requiring the President to seek the approval of the people's representatives, it makes it very difficult for anyone with ulterior motives to succeed in politicising the President's decision.

The National Assembly's roles of checks and balances extends to vetting key appointments to (and dismissals from) State Organs such as the Cabinet, Commissions and Independent Offices, Justices, ambassadors, etc. Excerpts from Chapter 9 - The Executive, Part 2 - The President and Deputy President:

132. (2) The President shall nominate and, with the approval of the National Assembly, appoint, and may dismiss— (a) the Cabinet Secretaries, ....... (b) the Attorney-General, ....... (c) the Secretary to the Cabinet ........ (d) Principal Secretaries ....... (e) high commissioners, ambassadors and diplomatic and consular representatives; and (f) in accordance with this Constitution, any other State or public officer whom this Constitution requires or empowers the President to appoint or dismiss.

When in September 2013 the President directly appointed a Chair to a national body - the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse NACADA, - the National Assembly protested the legality of the appointment, and the President was forced to revoke it and instead, to first present the NACADA nominee for vetting by the Assembly.

The National Assembly also has oversight roles over the conduct in office of Presidential and other public body appointees and over the State Organs they preside over.

95. (5) The National Assembly— (a) reviews the conduct in office of ........ State officers and initiates the process of removing them from office; and (b) exercises oversight of State organs. 

Finally, the New Constitution has gone to great lengths to demarcate the roles of the Senate from those of the National Assembly.  The discussion on the Senate of the Republic of Kenya can be found under its link.

 

 

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