MPs have a duty to protect public resources

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Our national and county assemblies face several challenges that prevent them from carrying out their oversight functions.

Parliament’s failure has also diminished the oversight roles of independent institutions, such as the Offices of the Auditor-General and Controller of Budget, whose reports are routinely ignored.

The challenges range from lack of political will to see through strong public interest bills, sectarian interests overriding public interest on investigations, non-implementation and enforceability of committee decisions, lack of transparency and limited resources.

It’s difficult to understand how some of the ghost projects were cleared by the various parliamentary committees.

In our system of governance, where Parliament remains the main watchdog in management of public resources, it’s embarrassing that the executive remains unchallenged when it comes to accountability.

Parliament should demand Cabinet resolutions that approve certain investments. Senators have also failed to challenge governors.

Priority is given to bills fronted by the executive or those serving to members’ improve welfare issues.

Good bills are progressively diluted at the various legislative stages or abandoned midway, and in the most extreme cases ‘killed’.

For example, most of the assemblies and county offices are not friendly to persons with disabilities, and yet no policies have been tabled to address this.

Parliament also appears to have lost its authority. There are many cases where the executive or State agencies have ignored the decisions of the House, with no repercussions.

While parliamentary committees have powers, they have rarely used them to enforce their decisions.

Other challenges include inadequate technical and support staff as well as lack of modern infrastructure and technology to facilitate their work.

Such an environment inhibits the assemblies from tracking the use of public resources and implementation of their recommendations.

Legislators must prioritise their oversight role. They need to spend more time on matters of public interest.

We want a robust House that focuses on crucial national issues; a team that constructively interrogates the decisions of the executive.

At the counties, assemblies must start using the reward/punishment clauses in the law to force compliance with their decisions, while at the same time strengthening their tracking mechanism on the implementation of their recommendations.

The Parliamentary Service Commission should support members so they can carry out their duties effectively.

The writer is the programmes manager at the Media Council of Kenya

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