Senators to National Assembly: Increase our oversight fund or lose CDF

The parliament buildings in Nairobi.

The Parliament Buildings in Nairobi. 

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Senators have now threatened to shoot down a bid by the National Assembly to amend the Constitution and entrench the National Government-Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) if the House does not increase allocation to a proposed Senate Oversight Fund.

The senators said they were not involved in the process of coming up with the Senate Oversight Fund (SOF) allocation, a figure that they said was unilaterally arrived at by the National Assembly.

Consequently, the lawmakers said that unless they are involved in the process, then they will not be party to ongoing bid to entrench the NG-CDF into the constitution after it was declared illegal by the courts.

According to the legislative proposal by Matungulu MP Stephen Mule and his Gichugu counterpart Gichimu Githinji, the two MPs are proposing that 0.001 percent of revenue raised by the national government go to SOF.

For the NG-CDF kitty, the proposal is that the allocation be increased from the current 2.5 percent of national revenue to five percent.

Currently, each constituency receives at least Sh100 million every year and legislators use the kitty for community development projects.

The parliamentary initiative also wants the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF) to be pegged at 0.25 percent of the national revenue.

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna said there is no way they are going to allow the National Assembly to unilaterally dictate to them the amount that will be due to the SOF.

“The proposal is absolutely contemptuous. The Senate certainly wasn’t consulted and we wonder how that figure was arrived at. We in the Senate will not support that amendment until and unless we are fully involved. We feel insulted,” said Mr Sifuna.

Kitui Senator Enock Wambua called on the Senate to push back for the withdrawal of the proposed constitutional amendment Bill to allow for a joint working group with equal representation from both Houses to agree on the way forward. 

“If there is this one thing that senators must never allow, it is a situation where the National Assembly sits and allocates anything to the Senate,” said Mr Wambua.

He said that the two Houses are established by the same article, the same sentence of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, and there is no way one should feel superior to the other.

“What makes any leader in the NA think that the Assembly can unilaterally legislate on behalf of the Senate? What is the rationale for five percent for NG-CDF and 0.001 per cent for Senate oversight fund?” he posed.

The debate over the allocation for oversight was triggered by Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni who decried how their sister House has been displaying majoritarianism by dictating matters for the Senate.

He questioned how Mr Mule and Mr Githinji arrived at the different figures with NG-CDF getting five percent while SOF a paltry 0.001 percent yet senators have a bigger area of jurisdiction.

“Our colleagues have come up with a bill giving themselves five percent for CDF and some token of 0.001 to the Senate. In a proper approach, there should have been a discussion between these two houses and agree what percentage should be given to the senate and what percent should be given to the National Assembly,” said Mr Omogeni.

Taita Taveta Senator Johnes Mwaruma said senators had proposed that they be given Sh500,000 every month towards oversight and so it will be a problem should the proposal fall below the same.

“We need to be told what that 0.001 percent is in total because we want to argue from the point of amounts. Let the bill come then we go through it and change it if need be,” said Mr Mwaruma.

Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah (Busia) went ahead to rubbish the initiative, saying the bill will not see the light of the day as it will be declared unconstitutional by the courts.

He argued that legislators should only be due oversight funds and not development kitty, funds he said should ideally be channeled through county governments or line ministries.

“The issue of NG-CDF is outdated with the new constitutional dispensation. The work of legislators is oversight and should be given an oversight fund to facilitate them in their duties. CDF cannot work,” said Mr Omtatah.

The Supreme Court had in August ruled that the fund is illegal and unconstitutional as it offends the constitutional principle of separation of powers.

The five-judge bench led by Chief Justice Martha Koome argued that local projects that MPs run through the NG-CDF are unconstitutional because the Constitution vests the powers to execute such programmes in devolved units.