Ruto, Mudavadi rude shock for Uhuru, Raila
Deputy President William Ruto and his new political allies yesterday pulled a surprise that caught President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga napping after they voted to reject the reconstitution of a critical committee of the National Assembly.
Members of Parliament allied to DP Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA), Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress (ANC) and Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya, voted to reject the names proposed to the House Business Committee (HBC) during the first day of the sixth and last session of the 12th parliament, dealing a blow to Mr Kenyatta’s legislative agenda in the sunset days of his presidency.
The House Business Committee is a critical organ that controls the agenda that is transacted in Parliament, without which operations of the House could grind to a halt.
The vote came just days after the Sunday political “earthquake” that saw DP Ruto and Mr Mudavadi announce a political partnership at the Bomas of Kenya.
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi yesterday said the House was paralysed by the outcome of the voting.
“As it stands now, the House cannot transact business. My hands are tied. It is now up to the majority and minority leadership of the House to see what to do,” said Speaker Muturi as he adjourned the afternoon sitting of the House.
The impasse set the tone for what is likely to be a stormy last session of the 12th parliament less than seven months to the polls following Sunday’s political re-alignments.
The standoff means that the country runs the risk of not having a budget for the 2022/23 financial year to finance key government operations like paying salaries of government workers- civil servants, the police, military, finance the elections, buying medical drugs as well as honour the debt obligations and pension for retiring government workers.
This is because without the HBC, Parliament cannot sit because there will be no business to be transacted.
But the Ruto-Mudavadi MPs were unmoved with the expected impact of their actions.
They stormed out of the House debating chamber chanting “earthquake”, “earthquake”, earthquake”; leaving Mvita MP Abdulswamad Sharif surprised.
“Their actions were pre-planned but they forgot the impact. Let all of them now get to the people and tell them that the government will not be able to honour its obligations because of what they did this afternoon,” said Mr Sharif.
Leader of majority Amos Kimunya (Kipipiri) had earlier moved the motion for the House to approve the HBC members list and was seconded by Kathiani MP Robert Mbui.
The rebel MPs urged the speaker to put the matter to vote and went on to reject it, in catching the government side unawares.
It was a procedural motion that is ordinarily not contested.
The list that was rejected by the House had Joyce Emanikor (Turkana County Woman MP), Shadrack Mose (Kitutu Masaba), Kawira Mwangaza (Meru County Woman MP), Abdikahim Osman (Fafi), Dr Makali Mulu (Kitui Central), Mishi Mboko (Likoni) and Godfrey Osotsi (nominated).
This means that the majority and minority leadership of the House will consult to have some names on the list changed so that the motion to be reintroduced is not of a similar substance to the one that was rejected.
Standing Order 171 (1) designates the Speaker as the Chairperson, leader of majority and minority parties, majority and minority party whips as automatic members of the HBC by virtue of their positions.
Rejection of HBC names
The House rule also provides that seven other members be appointed to the Committee.
The MPs were scheduled to debate and approve the report of the Budget and Appropriations Committee (BAC) on the 2021 Budget Policy Statement (BPS).
The BPS, which outlines the government’s expenditure plan for the year, shows that Sh3.31 trillion is to be spent in the 2022/23 financial year.
Of the projected Sh3.31 trillion budget, the BPS projects the national government will spend Sh2.07 trillion.
This is broken down as Sh2.02 trillion for the executive, parliament is expected to get Sh38.48 billion and judiciary Sh18.88 billion.
The county governments are expected to get Sh370 billion in equitable share, with Sh864.13 billion going to the Consolidated Fund Services (CFS).
The Standing Orders of the National Assembly provide that at the start of every session of a parliament, the first business of the House is to reconstitute the HBC through a motion.
Once the motion has been passed, the House rises to sit the following day as the new HBC members led by the Speaker retreat to prepare the business to be transacted by the House for the week.
With the rejection of the HBC names, under Standing Order 49, it means that the motion can only be reintroduced after six months, which means sometimes in July this year, just days to the General Election, with no budget.
However, the same Standing Order provides for a recourse to the potentially serious crisis awaiting the country.
Part two of the Standing order 49 provides that a motion to rescind the decision on such a question may be moved with the permission of the Speaker.
This means that any member can move the rescission motion, but which must be approved by the Speaker.
But the rescission motion should not be the same as the one moved and defeated.
“No Motion may be moved which is the same in substance as any question which has been resolved either in the affirmative or in the negative during the preceding six months in the same session,” the House Standing Order provides.
It is not the first time the House is finding itself in such an unfamiliar territory. Sometimes back when Mr Francis Ole Kaparo was the Speaker, the House was faced with a similar matter after the motion to reconstitute the HBC was rejected.
However, the late Prof Saitoti, then the leader of government business in the House and the automatic chair of HBC under the old constitution, moved swiftly to avert a possible crisis by bringing a rescission motion that was approved and adopted by the Speaker.
During Kenneth Marende’s tenure as Speaker, there was a similar problem but which revolved around who between Mr Odinga and then ODM-Kenya leader now Wiper, Kalonzo Musyoka should be the leader of government business in the House after a divisive 2007 general election.
The situation was resolved after Mr Marende took upon himself to be the leader of government business to cool the political temperatures. He would later handover the position to Mr Musyoka after a truce between the two opposing sides was reached.
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