MPs differ on the handling of CSs who ignore House teams’ summons

Speaker Justin Muturi is escorted to the National Assembly when it resumed sittings on February 12, 2019. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The only CSs that have been diligent in honouring House committee summons are Dr Monica Juma (Foreign Affairs), Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri (Agriculture), Prof Margaret Kobia (Public Service, Youth and Gender), Mr Joe Mucheru (ICT) and Mr Keriako Tobiko (Environment and Natural Resources).

That MPs have been made a laughing stock whenever Cabinet secretaries are summoned to appear before House committees but fail to do so and no sanctions imposed on them is no longer a secret.

Of late, committees of the National Assembly have cancelled meetings because respective CSs did not turn up to respond to policy queries. However, the case is not the same with the Senate.

After enduring a similar behaviour, the Senate finally stumped its authority by locking out Chief Administrative Secretaries and Principal Secretaries (PSs) sent to represent CSs. The firmness of the Senate finally paid off, hence a CS would rather appear before a Senate committee than a National Assembly committee.

National Assembly committees that have had difficulties getting CSs to appear before them include Implementation, Health, Energy, Transport, Public Works and Housing.


The only CSs that have been diligent in honouring House committee summons are Dr Monica Juma (Foreign Affairs), Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri (Agriculture), Prof Margaret Kobia (Public Service, Youth and Gender), Mr Joe Mucheru (ICT) and Mr Keriako Tobiko (Environment and Natural Resources).

However, the continued failure by a section of CSs to honour House summons may reignite the debate to amend the Constitution so that CSs are picked from MPs.

It is also instructive that departmental committees appropriate money to respective ministries, meaning that if they decide to flex their muscles, government programmes would suffer.

The National Assembly’s Standing Order 191 grants committees the enjoyment and exercise of all the powers and privileges spelt out in Constitution and other laws.

This includes the power to summon any person under Article 125 of the Constitution to give evidence or provide information. They also enjoy powers similar to those of the High Court to enforce the attendance of witnesses, including CSs. The same rules provide that where a summoned witness does not appear, or appears but fails to satisfy the House or committee, the House or committee may impose a fine not exceeding Sh500,000.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi is on record telling committees to stop “pampering” rogue CSs and instead notify his office so it can take action.

“We need to see committee chairmen begin to flex their muscles within the law,” Mr Muturi said.

A few days ago, the Transport committee, chaired by Pokot South MP David Pkosing, sent away Transport PS Esther Koimett after CS James Macharia failed to appear to respond to the proposed takeover of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by Kenya Airways.

Health CS Sicily Kariuki has also failed to appear before the Health committee on numerous occasions. She has been sending Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman whenever she is required, a move that has not gone down well with the committee.


“I wonder why she continues to receive special treatment,” a member of the committee, who did not want to go on record, said.

Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi, Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Implementation, said that getting Lands CS Farida Karoney to respond on the Mombasa Cement land issue has been a problem. The MP said the CS has been invited several times, in vain.

According to Standing Orders, a witness is reminded twice before being served with summons in case they fail to honour committee invitations.

The MP urged Parliament to act tough. “I believe it is time they were sanctioned so that they start respecting our work. The institution of Parliament has been lenient with them as they continue to delay and derail our work,” Mr Osotsi said, adding that Mr Mucheru was yet to appear before the committee over Telkom Kenya’s takeover.

However, Leader of Majority Aden Duale came to the defence of the CSs. “Where the CS is not available, they communicate and the Speaker is always notified. So far we have not had issues with their non-appearance,” he said.

Mr Duale also urged Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki to issue an advisory on jurisdiction differentiation between the Senate and the National Assembly in terms of summoning witnesses.

“I don’t see why Senators should waste time summoning CSs in charge of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Education … when their mandate does not concern counties,” Mr Duale said.

Leader of Minority John Mbadi said that MPs have power to deny a ministry funds if they feel that the CS is an impediment to their work.