House to sit again for business team names

National Assembly

National Assembly on November 18, 2021.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

The National Assembly will have another attempt to reconstitute the House Business Committee (HBC) on Tuesday next week.

This comes after Speaker Justin Muturi, on the request of Majority Leader Amos Kimunya (Kipipiri), officially notified the 349 MPs of the crucial sitting.

On Tuesday this week, MPs allied to Deputy President William Ruto, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula shot down a motion to reconstitute the powerful panel in a move that caught President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga flat-footed.

The House had just reconvened for the first day of the sixth and last session of the 12th Parliament ahead of the August 9 polls, before hell broke loose.

“I have this afternoon received a request from the leader of the majority party conveying that he wishes to move the motion relating to approval of nominees for appointment to the House Business Committee on Tuesday next week, which I have approved,” reads an SMS signed off by Mr Muturi to the MPs.

“In the circumstances and there being no business to transact tomorrow, the next sitting of the House will now be held on Tuesday, February 1, 2022 at 2.30pm. Any inconvenience caused by this change is regretted.”

Initially, Mr Muturi had summoned MPs for a sitting today in the afternoon but changed after consulting with the leadership of the House. The Standing Orders provide that a notice of this kind be issued at least 12 hours before the sitting. They add that on the first day of every session, the House shall reconstitute the membership of the HBC, which is chaired by the Speaker.

The committee sets the business to be transacted in the House on a weekly basis. Without it, the House will have nothing to transact. The action of the DP Ruto-Mudavadi-Wetang’ula allied MPs, therefore, means the House cannot pass the Budget and Appropriations Committee report on 2021 Budget Policy Statement (BPS). The BPS projects the government to spend Sh3.31 trillion in the year 2022/23.

Budget at stake

Unless the committee is reconstituted to allow the House to sit and transact business, Kenya will not have a budget in the next financial year, leaving delivery of critical services like buying medicines, allocation of devolved funds and financing of the general election in limbo.

Also at stake is the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, 2021, set to be considered by the House after the Senate input.

The Bill, if passed, paves the way for the creation of the Azimio coalition that is expected to bring together Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga ahead of the polls.

Standing Order 171(1) designates the Speaker, who shall be the chairperson, leaders and whips of majority and minority as automatic members of the HBC by virtue of their positions.

The list rejected on Tuesday had Joyce Emanikor (Turkana Woman MP), Shadrack Mose (Kitutu Masaba), Kawira Mwangaza (Meru Woman MP), Abdikahim Osman (Fafi), Dr Makali Mulu (Kitui Central), Mishi Mboko (Likoni) and Godfrey Osotsi (nominated).

Although it appeared that the rejection meant the House proroguing itself prematurely as it cannot sit to transact any business, a recourse lies in Standing Order 49 (2), which says a motion to rescind the decision on such a question may be moved with the permission of the Speaker.

Recourse

It is this recourse that Mr Kimunya exploited in petitioning the Speaker for a House sitting.

Although the House rules say no motion may be moved, which is the same in substance as any question that has been resolved either in the affirmative or in the negative during the preceding six months in the same session, the rejected names are the same ones reintroduced.

Yesterday, Gatanga MP Joseph Nduati termed it important to have the HBC reconstituted to avoid the risk of the government shutting down. “As legislators, we cannot put the country in a financial turmoil just because of our vested interests. Let’s rise above our partisan political leanings and see the bigger picture ahead,” said Mr Nduati.

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