MPs on Tuesday swore to block Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta from reading the Budget next week, saying he had broken the law.
Mr Kenyatta was expected to present this year’s Budget estimates to the Parliamentary Budget Committee, but did not.
The new Constitution has changed the Budget process, sharing budget powers between Parliament and the Executive.
The traditional Budget reading, a Westminster tradition, has been done away with and replaced with a more low-key American-type system.
Mr Kenyatta is scheduled to read the Budget on Thursday next week, but it is no longer certain that he will be allowed to present it.
MPs, speaking at a meeting at Nairobi’s Continental House, also said that Mr Kenyatta ought to be reprimanded for breaching the Constitution by not submitting the estimates as stipulated in the Constitution.
They said they will ask House Speaker Kenneth Marende to force the minister to apologise to the nation and to immediately submit the budget to the House for scrutiny.
They gave the minister until Tuesday next week, after which, they said, they will tell the Speaker to force the minister to present the estimates or be banned from conducting business in Parliament.
There was no reason
Later in the afternoon, Ms Martha Karua (Gichugu, Narc Kenya) asked the Speaker to rule on the legal controversy, and as the chairman of the Parliamentary Service Commission, the Speaker took a preliminary view that there was no reason why the minister failed to submit the budget to the committee for scrutiny.
The front bench, led by Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo, Transport Minister Amos Kimunya and Education Minister Sam Ongeri rallied MPs to support the reading of the budget next week saying that it was crucial to push East African integration forward.
But the backbenchers said the EAC treaties were inferior to the Constitution and the priority should be obeying the Constitution.
At the Budget Committee, the MPs also denied ever granting the minister a 30-day extension to present the Budget, saying they had advised him to seek that extension from Parliament, which the minister did not do.
Committee chairman Elias Mbau led members John Mbadi (Gwassi, ODM), Mohammed Abdikadir (Mandera Central, Safina), Ekwee Ethuro (Turkana Central, PNU), Mithika Linturi (Igembe South, Kanu), Danson Mungatana (Garsen, Narc Kenya) and Abdul Bahari (Isiolo South, Kanu) in making the resolution.
They said Mr Kenyatta had on three occasions ignored committee rulings and should be reprimanded for that.
On Tuesday, Treasury mandarins showed up at the meeting without the minister or permanent secretary Joseph Kinyua and were turned away.
Mr Mbau, Mr Mbadi and Mr Linturi said the new Constitution had no provision for Mr Kenyatta to read the Budget in the House.
They said the law was clear that the minister had to submit the annual estimates to the committee as soon as possible.
The trio cited article 221 of the Constitution as the basis for their assertions, and reading it together with section 31(2) of the Transition and Consequential Clauses, they said, the minister donned the clothes of the Cabinet Secretary as far as budget-making is concerned.
They said article 221, which deals with the budget-making process, had not been suspended until the next elections, and thus, it had to be complied with.
“Many Kenyans are reading this Constitution and expect compliance. It appears the Executive was ill-prepared,” Mr Ethuro added.
They said Parliament and the Judiciary had submitted their budgets yet Treasury was insisting on holding onto the national budget.
“It could be that some people are trying to pull strings from behind, so we have to be very vigilant,” Mr Linturi said.
Mr Mohammed, the chairman of the Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee said that Treasury’s reluctance to comply with article 221 was ill-informed.
“If there’s any particular requirement that has to be fulfilled in the Constitution, it is not a choice about whether you’ll comply or not. You have to comply,” the CIOC chairman said.
He added that the challenge was in transiting from the old dispensation of pompous reading of the Budget to the new one where the budget-making role is the preserve of the Budget Committee and Parliament’s Budget Office.
He said the minister was already in contempt of the law and should rectify the problem before the matter moved on.
“We’re not seeking his indulgence. Part of Parliament’s work is oversight, so we demand compliance from the Treasury,” he added.
Mr Mbau said the minister won’t read the Budget, because, according to Parliament’s legal opinion, article 221 took precedence in the process and therefore, if the minister went ahead to read the budget next week, he’d be committing a second breach of the law.
He said the 30-day extension being spoken of by the Treasury was non-existent because the minister was supposed to “confess to the public and seek forgiveness.”
“We asked them to seek that extension from the House to absolve the committee, but they failed,” Mr Mbau said.
All EAC nations are reading their budgets on June 8, for the simultaneous enactment of tariffs on the Common Market.
According to the Treasury’s interpretation of the new Constitution, the systems of budgeting in the new Constitution start only after an election under the new Constitution.