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Bills that were lost after MPs failed to veto presidential memorandum or never acted on them

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Parliament buildings in Nairobi in this picture taken on June 7, 2024. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto’s rejection of Finance Bill 2024 is not the first time a president has overruled a Bill passed by parliament in its entirety. 

Records in the National Assembly show that at least three Bills that immediate former President Uhuru Kenyatta rejected in their entirety in a memorandum to parliament expressing his reservations, were lost. 

They include the Law of Contract (Amendment) Bill 2019, the Parliamentary Pensions (Amendment) Bill 2019 and the Institute of Directors of Kenya Bill 2016. 

The action by the former president on the three Bills saw them get lost either because the House failed to raise the numbers to veto the President’s reservations or failed to act on the memorandum on the Bills. 

This means that if the MPs fail to raise the required numbers to veto President William Ruto’s memorandum on the Finance Bill, which sought to raise additional Sh346 billion on top of the Sh2.95 trillion to finance the Sh3.9 trillion budget for the 2024/25 financial year, it will be lost. 

National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula noted that Bills that have been rejected by the president in their entirety can only be saved if the House raises the requisite numbers to veto the president’s memorandum. 

“The constitution empowers MPs to reconsider a Bill rejected by the president and pass it in a manner they deem fit but subject to applicable voting thresholds,” said Speaker Wetang’ula on July 6.
 
The House Standing Orders state that a Bill that has been lost or ‘died’ a natural ‘death’ can only be introduced in the House after six months.
 
Article 115 of the constitution outlines the procedure applicable to presidential assent and referral of Bills presented for assent. 

The Article states that upon presentation of a Bill for assent, the constitution grants the president 14 days within which to either assent to the Bill or refer it back to parliament with a memorandum containing his reservations for reconsideration. 

In considering the president’s memorandum on the Bill, parliament may amend the Bill in light of the president’s reservations or pass the Bill a second time without amendment. 

Parliament, after considering the President’s reservations, may pass the Bill a second time, without amendment or with amendments that do not fully accommodate the president’s reservations by a vote supported by two-thirds of the 349 MPs in the National Assembly. 

In the case of the Senate, two-thirds of the 47 delegations (elected Senators) in the Senate, if it is a Bill that requires the approval of the Senate. 

In the 11th parliament, then National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, now Attorney-General, allowed the president sweeping powers to reject a Bill and even propose what the Bill should look like in the form of a text for the MPs’ consideration. 

Nominated MP John Mbadi faulted this saying it is wrong to allow the president unfettered powers in the legislation process. 

“Previously, the president was only required to express his reservations on a Bill but leave it to the MPs to decide. The president cannot be the one drafting Bills and at the same time assenting to them. This amounts to conflict of interest,” noted Mr Mbadi. 

The Law of Contract (Amendment) Bill by former Juja MP the late Francis Waititu had only one clause but was lost because the National Assembly failed to raise the requisite numbers to veto the president’s memorandum. 

The Bill sought to amend the Law of Contract Act to require a creditor to first realize the assets of a borrower upon default before proceeding to attach the assets of the guarantors. 

By doing so, meant some protection to the guarantor’s assets against the lending institutions’ dreadful auction hammer. 

The Bill had proposed that the banks and other lending institutions first exhaust the auctioning of the property of the principal borrowers before zeroing in on those of the guarantors. 

The House received the then president’s memorandum in March 2020 proposing the deletion of the only clause in the Bill. But with the House failing to marshal the required numbers to veto the president’s memorandum, the Bill was lost. 

Under the 2010 constitution, parliament is yet to marshal the two-thirds majority required to overturn the president’s memorandum on a Bill passed in the House. 

The Parliamentary Pensions (Amendment) Bill was also lost after the National Assembly failed to veto the president’s memorandum. 

The Bill by then Suba South MP John Mbadi, sought to have former MPs who served between July 1, 1984 and January 1, 2001, get an enhanced monthly pension of Sh100,000. 

The Bill sailed through the House on August 5, 2020. 

But when it was transmitted for presidential assent, the president expressed his reservations on the advice of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC). 

In the memorandum, the president stated that the Bill overlooked the mandate of SRC of setting and reviewing of remuneration and benefits for all state and public officers among them MPs and the president. 

Then House Speaker Justin Muturi committed the president’s memorandum on the Bill to the Finance and National Planning Committee for processing and reporting to the House for consideration.

Although the committee recommended to the House that the president’s reservations on the Bill be vetoed, the House could not raise the requisite two-thirds majority to uphold the committee’s recommendations. 

The Institute of Directors of Kenya Bill by Ugenya MP David Ochieng was lost after the National Assembly failed to act on the president’s memorandum. 

The president’s memorandum on the Bill was received in July 2017 just days to the general election of August 8, 2017. 

By the time the president was transmitting his memorandum, the House had already adjourned to allow MPs time to campaign ahead of the general election. 

The Bill sought to establish the Institute of Directors of Kenya and to provide for the registration and regulation of the standards and practice of the profession. 

The institute was meant to issue certificates of registration to its members annually as a form of quality assurance to the public bodies, entities, enterprises and companies on whose boards its members are to be appointed.