Shape up or ship out, Wetang'ula warns 'lazy' committee

Moses Wetang'ula

Speaker of the National Assembly Moses Wetang'ula at County Hall, Nairobi on  October 18, 2022. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

A year-long backlog of petitions from Kenyans to Parliament has put members of the Petitions Committee in the firing line for the second time.

Speaker Moses Wetang'ula has called for a meeting with the National Assembly's Public Petitions Committee following numerous complaints from MPs that their petitions and those of their constituents are taking too long to be processed.

The Petitions Committee, chaired by Kitui East MP Nimrod Mbai, is one of the new committees established in the Thirteenth Parliament following the amendment of the Standing Orders that increased the number of committees from 28 to 44.

The committee is mandated to consider public petitions tabled in the House and make such recommendations as may be appropriate with respect to the prayers sought in the petitions.

It is also charged with recommending to the House whether the findings arising from the consideration of a petition should be debated, and with advising and reporting to the House on all petitions referred to it.

The committee was created as part of a move to move the bulk of petitions out of committees to give them time to do their jobs, as committees were spending more time on petitions that were not part of their core business.

But on Tuesday, Mr Wetang'ula expressed concern that there were too many petitions pending before the committee.

"There is a bit of concern that there are too many petitions pending before your committee, some of which have exceeded the stipulated time. I would like to have a meeting with you and your committee so that I can assist you to be more robust in the discharge of your duties," said Mr Wetang'ula as he looked unhappily at the floor of the House without responding.

"Petitions are time-bound and when you have between 30 and 39 petitions that are out of time, it is not very good," the speaker added.

This is not the first time Mr Wetang'ula has raised concerns about the committee's performance. In August last year, he expressed concern not only about the absence of the committee's chairperson in the House, but also about the accumulation of unresolved concerns from members of the public.

"The significant number of petitions pending before this committee demands swift attention. If this situation persists, I urge the Leader of the Majority Party or the Leader of the Minority Party to consider reconstituting the Committee to better serve the public," said Mr Wetang'ula.


 Parliament in session on November 9, 2023. Experts argue that a negotiated political document before Parliament holds the key to resolving the impasse.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

According to the Petitions Tracker on Parliament's website, the committee has so far received 49 petitions from members of the public, but only eight have been completed and reported to the House for consideration in a period of one year.

The number of petitions could be higher as some have been processed by the Parliamentary Registry but have yet to be formally presented to the House.

Deputy Majority Leader Owen Baya called for the disbanding of the committee so that petitions can revert to portfolio committees as was the case in the Twelfth Parliament, saying they were handled more effectively.

Kilifi North MP Owen Baya during a meeting of Coast leaders at the Wild Waters hotel.

Photo credit: File | Nation

"I would like to urge us to go back to committees where we have more expertise and fast-track these petitions otherwise Kenyans who have sent petitions to this House are suffering and equally MPs who have also sent their petitions are also suffering," Mr Baya said.

"We need to review the Standing Orders so that petitions can go back to committees," he added.

Tiaty MP William Kamket said a petition from his committee has been sitting in the committee for a year but hasn't been acted upon.

"I have brought petitions here that have been there for a year. If you give all the petitions to one committee, it is clear that they cannot handle them. It is time to review our Standing Orders so that we can decongest this committee and start serving Kenyans," said Mr Kamket.

Tiaty MP William Kamket

Tiaty MP William Kamket addressing guests and locals during the swearing in of Baringo Governor Benjamin Cheboi at Kabarnet show grounds on August 25, 2022. 

Photo credit: File| Nation Media Group

Among the reports tabled by the committee are the petition on the completion of housing units for Kibera residents funded by the World Bank, the petition on the amendment of the Kenya Information and Communication Act, the petition on the amendment of the Constitution to create the offices of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Official Leader of the Opposition, the petition on the likely loss of investments in the Cytonn high yield solution platform,

Others include a petition on the desilting of the Masinga Dam, a petition on compensation for the Nyanza-Western Kenya Caucus of Internally Displaced Persons, a petition on the EACC investigations into the West Kano Irrigation Scheme, a petition on ensuring the economic and social welfare of communities living near forests.