Jitters in National Assembly as Ruto backs creation of Senate fund

Parliament

 President William Ruto adressing the 13th Parliament in Nairobi on September 29,2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

A showdown looms in Parliament over President William Ruto’s backing of the setting up of the controversial Senate oversight fund.

Ruto’s push for the creation of the elusive county oversight kitty for senators is creating jitters among members of the National Assembly, who have vowed to shoot down the proposal, saying it offends the constitution.

This is even as the lawmakers affirm that the National Government-Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) under 2015 Act, is legal and not a repeal of the 2013 Act outlawed by the High Court and subsequently upheld by the apex court as an infringement of the law.

The lawmakers allied to Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza and Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition party are headed for a clash over the legality of the proposal to set up the Senate fund which has previously suffered a defeat in the National Assembly.

“What the president is doing is trying to bribe the MPs through populist incentives at a time the country is struggling with an ailing economy and a ballooning wage bill,” said Homa Bay Town MP Kaluma.

Kaluma, who was a member of the select committee on CDF in the 11th parliament that drafted the NG-CDF Act, adds, “What he (Ruto) is trying to do is political patronage by pushing for the Senate oversight kitty. We cannot entangle a lawful kitty (NG-CDF) with an unlawful proposal (Senate oversight kitty).”

Several attempts to establish the senators’ kitty have flopped in the past on the basis of violation of the Public Financial Management Act.

Oversight Fund Bill

“I will not support the proposed Oversight Fund Bill. MPs are already paid to do oversight. After creating an oversight fund, they will demand legislation, representation, and budgeting funds. Top of their salary! Greed and corruption must be stopped,” Kaluma criticized the move.

Senate Speaker Amason Kingi lauded President Ruto’s support for the fund, saying it is critical for senators to discharge the roles.

“When implemented, it will enable senators to effectively discharge their constitutional mandate of overseeing and monitoring the progress of devolution,” said Kingi.

Former Council of Governors' chair and Chama Cha Mashinani party leader Isaac Ruto has even questioned what the fund is meant to do.

“We are assuming that a senator will go round his county doing oversight. Oversight of the Senate is through the institution which is not individual but committees. Those committees will work and also use the audit reports,” said Ruto.

He warned the fund will enable senators to start lynching governors.

He added, “Is this another CDF, senators are facilitated to travel to their counties and their offices properly resourced?”

Political analyst Martin Oloo argues the design of the Senate is not primarily oversight.

“The president should tell us how bottom-up model will help collapse the existing funds. The issue of oversight in counties is squarely an assembly issue. We should allow the county assemblies to operate, we cannot super reimpose senate authority,” stressed Oloo.

Senate oversight role over counties is secondary, which at times put senators and Members of the county Assemblies (MCAs) at loggerheads to hold governors to account for billions of shillings appropriates to them.

Sh332 million

Since 2016 when they proposal was first mooted at Sh332 million, the senators are yet to get a green light, even as the figure sought graduated to Sh1 billion in 2020 and to currently Sh2.7 billion.

“I believe the two Houses should work together to set up the Senate oversight fund. This will be used to provide oversight over millions allocated to counties,” the President urged.

Already, the Nation has reliably established that a senator from Nyanza region is in the process of drafting a bill to set up the fund.

On CDF, Matungulu MP Stephen Mule has set the ball rolling by writing to National Speaker Moses Wetangula, seeking to formulate a legislation to entrench the Sh2 billion the National Government Affirmative Action Fund, Sh40 billion NG-CDF, Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF), Uwezo and Senate Oversight Fund.

“The entrenchment of the funds in the constitution will ensure the critical role of the fund in promoting development of national government projects…. The established of the senate oversight fund in the constitution will ensure the senate is adequately empowered and resourced to perform its functions,” said Mule.

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