False start for Ruto, Raila team considering Nadco report

From left: Deputy Chairperson of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee Mwengi Mutuse, Chairperson of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee of the National Assembly George Murugara and Chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights Senator Hillary Sigei addressing the media at KICC Nairobi on Thursday March 7, 2024. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

A joint meeting of two parliamentary committees considering nine Bills on the framework for implementing the recommendations of the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) report failed to take place on Wednesday due to lack of quorum.

The second joint sitting of the National Assembly Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs and the Senate Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights was cancelled when no senator turned up because they were in the House considering an impeachment Motion against Kisii Deputy Governor Robert Monda.

The committee is now scheduled to reconvene on Wednesday next week as it races against time to beat the 45-day deadline set by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Moses Wetang'ula, for them to submit a report on the nine Bills emanating from the Nadco report.

The Nadco report, which was the product of a bipartisan consensus between President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga following sustained anti-government protests, made myriad proposals touching on legal and policy reforms and issues of concern to the people of Kenya.

Among the Bills that emerged from the report are the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which, if passed by Parliament, will change the structure of government as it seeks to create the office of the Leader of the Official Opposition and enshrine in law the office of the Prime Minister, the Senate Oversight Fund, the National Government Affirmative Action Fund and the National Government-Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF).

It also seeks to extend the term of the Senate from five to seven years.

The other Bill is the IEBC (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to amend the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act to increase the number of commissioners from seven to nine.

The chairman of the National Assembly Legal Affairs Committee, George Murugara, said the failure of Wednesday's meeting meant they would now hold "marathon meetings" to finalise their report to the House or seek an extension of time.

Quorum from the National Assembly side

Five MPs - Mr Murugara (Tharaka), Otiende Amolo (Rarieda), Njeri Maina (Kirinyaga), Mwengi Mutuse (Mwingi West), Mohamed Daudi (Wajir East) - were present to constitute a quorum from the National Assembly side.

However, according to the Standing Orders, since it is a joint committee, the meeting needed at least another three senators to conduct its business.

“We don’t underrate what the senate is doing this morning it’s equally important, so we take it with open hands… that we will have them next Wednesday where we will have the agenda of the second sitting,” Mr Murugara said on the absence of the senators.

Questions have been raised on why three senators could not show up to give the committee a quorum for it to continue with its business as it is the norm in most committee meetings.

Since there was also no voting in the Senate morning sitting, the Nadco report was a priority according to some members of the committee hence it should have taken off.

“They did try their best to send at least three senators to make quorum but it was not possible because of their own requirement in that House. So we have sat as JLAC from the National Assembly and read our Standing Orders and confirmed that we cannot sit because this is a joint sitting,” said Mr Murugara.

“We have adjourned the matter on mutual agreement to a proposed date of 20th March. This is a provisional date we have given, not tentative because we have to consult our colleagues from the Senate to confirm availability and make a formal communication,” he added.

The committee was scheduled to have its second meeting on Thursday to among other things decide on the contentious question of referendum and framework of conducting public participation on the nine Bills that emanated from the report.

First meeting

In its first meeting last week, the committee said it was to give its position on whether the country will go for a referendum to implement some of the recommendations made in the report.

The committee was also set to divide the constitutional amendment Bills for ease of consideration.

Also on the table for discussion Thursday was the extent to which the committee should go on public participation while considering the nine Bills borne out of the Nadco report.

The joint committee was to decide whether the committee would take public views on the Bill across the country or through memorandums.