Committees

 

The New Constitution has sought to revitalize Committees of Parliament. Committees of the House serve to expedite parliamentary business by allowing for small representative units of Parliamentarians to invite public input and participation in Bills preparation, conduct studies, investigations, and vet public appointments, evaluate estimates and budgetary requests etc., after which the committees table their reports in the House.

In general, the recommendations of these committees are often adopted by the plenary. Occassionally, these reports are rejected. For example, on the 19th of November 2013, the recommendation of the Administration and National Security Committee (Departmental) rejecting the Presidential nominee for the Chair of the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse NACADA was overturned by the House.

In March 2014, the House again rejected another report jointly prepared by the same Administration and National Security Committee and the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee (Departmental) on grounds of incompetence, shoddiness, and a waste of public funds. The two Committees had attempted to investigated the terror attack that took place in September 2013 at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.

Perhaps what such rejections of Committee reports did, was to amplify calls for the enactment of more clear regulations that define the terms and jurisdiction of parliamentary investigations, as traditionally, criminal investigations are really the preserve of statutory and better equipped government agencies, such as the Criminal Investigation Department of the National Police Service, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission EACC, and Constitutional Commissions.

Furthermore, Parliament lacks the wherewithal to see out such investigations through the court system. "We have become a country where pseudo-organs with amorphous roles take up tasks that they have no capacity to accomplish." (Vitalis Musebe, 2014). Indeed, some of the Committees have had the audacity to go ahead and launch own investigations on matters that are pending before the Courts, contrary to the law.

It is hoped that with the separation of powers - whereby Cabinet Secretaries will no longer be drawn from Members of Parliament, Committees of the House will function with more freedom and independence. Excerpts from Article 124 of Chapter 8 - The Legislature, Part 5 - Parliament's General Procedures and Rules:

124. (1) Each House of Parliament may establish committees, and shall make Standing Orders for the orderly conduct of its proceedings, including the proceedings of its committees.

However, old habits die hard. In 2014, the National Assembly overstepped its oversight mandate when it formed a curiously-named 'Committee of the Whole House' ostensibly to compel Cabinet Secretaries to appear before its Tuesday plenary sessions as would happen under the old constitution. The Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution CIC termed the move by the NA as illegal. Soon after, the CSs were ordered by the Presidency not to appear before this particular Committee.

Committees of the National Assembly fall under four broad categories: Committees of the Whole House aka House Keeping (four); Standing Committees (seven); Ad hoc Select Committees; and  Departmental Committees (8); The first Committee to be constituted soon after the 4th President was sworn in April of 2013, was the House Business Committee. This Committee of 28 members is a Committee of the Whole House, and will serve for 3 years.


1) House Business Committee

 

This Committee, which is a Committee of the whole House is mandated to manage the Parliamentary Calendar - scheduling or programming of the business - issue directives and guidelines to prioritize or postpone any business of the House. Its membership is given below: 

 

Table 3.1 - House Business Committee (Whole House)

 

 
Member
Gender
Party
Representation
 County
1 (Speaker) Justin Muturi
Male N/A N/A  N/A
(Leader of Majority) Aden Duale
 Male URP  Garissa Township  Garissa
(Leader of Minority) Francis Nyenze
Male Wiper  Kitui West Kitui
(Deputy Leader of Majority) Naomi Shaaban  Female  TNA  Taveta Taita Taveta
(Deputy Leader of Minority) Jakoyo Midiwo  Male  ODM  Gem Siaya
  27 Other Members        

 

2) Committee on Appointments

 

This is a Standing Committee in place for 3 years. It considers, for approval by the House, appointments under Articles 152. (2) (Cabinet secretaries). It approved 15 of 16 Cabinet Secretary nominees but the whole House unanimously approved all 16 of them on the 14 May 2013. The quorum of the Committee on Appointments is one half of the Members of the Committee.

 

Table 3.2 - Committee on Appointments (Standing)

 

 
Member
Gender
Party
Representation
 County
 1 (Speaker) Justin Muturi (Chair) Male N/A N/A N/A
(Leader of Majority) Aden Duale
 Male URP Garissa Township  Garissa
(Leader of Minority) Francis Nyenze
Male Wiper  Kitui West Kitui
(Deputy Speaker) Joyce Laboso Female URP Sotik Bomet
(Deputy Leader of Majority) Naomi Shabaan Female TNA Taveta Taita Taveta
(Deputy Leader of Minority) Jakoyo Midiwo Male  ODM Gem Siaya
  21 Other Members        

 

3) Public Accounts Committee PAC

 

This is a 27-member Standing Committee responsible for the examination of the accounts showing the appropriations of the sum voted by the House to meet the public expenditure and of such other accounts. It serves for 3 years after which it is reconstituted.

 

Table 3.4 - Public Accounts Committee PAC (Standing)

 

 
Member
Gender
Party
Representation
 County
Ababu Namwamba (Chair)
Male ODM Budalangi Busia
1 Nicholas Gumbo (Chair) Male ODM Rarieda Siaya
Cecily Mbarire (V/Chair)
Female TNA Runyenjes Embu
2 Jackson Rop (V/Chair) Male URP Kipkelion West Kericho
  25 Other Members        

 

However, the first PAC (led by Namwamba and Mbarire) following the March 2013 General Elections did not complete its 3 year term after it was disbanded in April of 2015 by the House following reports of corruption within its ranks based on investigations by the House's own Privileges Committee. For purposes of continuity, 6 out of 27 members of the old Committee would be retained in the new, despite the fact that 5 of those who served in the old committee were barred from being reelected to serve in the new.

 

4) Administration and National Security Committee (Departmental)

 

This Committee did, in May 2013, vet and approve, the nominee for Secretary to the Cabinet. 

 

5) Other Committees of the National Assembly

 

 5

Committee on Selections (House Keeping) 

6

Public Investments Committee (Standing) 

7

Defence and Foreign Relations Committee (Departmental)

8

Procedure and House Rules Committee (House Keeping)

9

Liaison Committee (House Keeping)

10

Budget and Appropriations Committee (Standing)

11

Committee on Implementation (Standing)

12

Committee on Delegated Legislation (Standing)

13

Committee on Regional Integration (Standing)

14

Agriculture, Livestock and Cooperatives Committee (Departmental) 

15

Environment and Natural Resources Committee (Departmental)

16

Education, Research and Technology Committee (Departmental)

17

Energy, Communication and Information Committee (Departmental)

18

Finance, Planning and Trade Committee (Departmental)

19

Health Committee (Departmental)

20

Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (Departmental)

21

Labour and Social Welfare Committee (Departmental)

22

Lands Committee (Departmental)

23

Transport, Public Works and Housing Committee (Departmental)

24

Committee on Constituency Development Fund

25

Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee

26

Catering and Health Club Committee (House Keeping)

27

Pensions Committee

28

Committee on National Cohesion and Equal Opportunity (Joint)

29

Committee on Parliamentary Broadcasting and Library (Joint)

 

In order to facilitate their full and functional autonomy, the Constitution has granted Parliament powers to legislate for the effective and unhindered operation of parliamentary committees:

117. (2) Parliament may, for the purpose of the orderly and effective discharge of the business of Parliament, provide for the powers, privileges and immunities of ...... its committees, ........ the chairpersons of committees and members.

To assist these Committees to perform their oversight roles effectively, the constitution has granted them powers equivalent to those of a High Court to summon witnesses, to compel persons or other legal entities to provide information that may assist the Committees' investigations. Excerpts from Article 125:

125. (1) Either House of Parliament, and any of its committees, has power to summon any person to appear before it for the purpose of giving evidence or providing information.
(2) For the purposes of clause (1), a House of Parliament and any of its committees has the same powers as the High Court— (a) to enforce the attendance of witnesses and examine them on oath, affirmation or otherwise; (b) to compel the production of documents; and (c) to issue a commission or request to examine witnesses abroad.

These powers are, however, of a quasi-judicial as opposed to being of a legislative nature and as such, are "....... subject to the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court." (PETITION NO. 518 OF 2013). This distinction was made clear when the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee of the House found itself with egg in the face in November 2013 when it summoned the Commissioners of the Judicial Service Commission JSC to appear before it to explain the suspension of the Chief Registrar. The Commissioners defied the summons and went to Court instead to rule on the legality of the summons. The High Court ruled that the actions of the Committee were unconstitutional. The JSC had insisted that the removal of the Chief Registrar was an internal matter. 

This matter did not end with the Court ruling. In fact, the Committee went on to table the petition recommending the removal of six Commissioners from the JSC for a vote before the House. The National Assembly approved the petition on the 7th of November, and its Speaker sent it to the President to establish a Tribunal to investigate the six Commissioners.

 

 

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