Dinah Ondari @dinahondari
Constant wrangling between the Senate and the National Assembly over bills could soon end if a proposed law by two senators to cure the menace is passed.
The bill by Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni) and Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi) seeks to set out clear criteria for determining the nature of bills that should originate from either House in a bid to end the confusion. The proposals also include the criteria of determining money, special and ordinary bills.
The bill also proposes that once a bill is passed by either House, a joint certificate signed by both Speakers is attached as an addendum before it goes to the President for assent.
Incessant feuds between the two Houses over where bill originate is not new. The Senate has in the past accused the National Assembly of unilaterally passing bills which concern counties and “sneaking” them to the President for signing.
Every financial year, the country is treated to supremacy battles between the National Assembly and Senate over the Division of Revenue Bill (DOR) which sets the shareable revenue between National government and counties.
The stalemate often leads to delay in disbursement of funds to counties and by extension, delay payment of salaries to county staff and implementation of development projects.
Other bills that have been the subject of controversy include the Office of County Attorney whose origin is the Senate. However, the proposal has stalled at the National Assembly with the latter arguing that it is a money bill and therefore senators had no business originating such a bill.
The consequence of the back and forth between the two Houses has been the loss of billions of shillings that counties pay to private lawyers in legal fees.
Due to lack of uniformity in qualifications, procurement procedures and payment rates, unscrupulous county officials collude with crafty lawyers to fleece counties of the much-needed money for development, hence the urgency to have the bill passed.
Article 110 (3) of the Constitution provides that before either House considers a bill, Speakers of the Senate and National Assembly shall jointly resolve any question as to whether it is a Bill concerning counties, and if it is, whether it is a special or ordinary bill.
However, the provision is silent on who between the two speakers is to enforce the provision of Article 110 (3) on all the Bills presented to Parliament. The result is a situation where no speaker feels obligated to initiate concurrence.
In their new proposals, the two senators now want the Supreme Court to be the final arbitrator in case there is a dispute between the two speakers on the nature of the Bill.
“Upon publication of a bill, and before it is read for the first time in the House, the Speaker of the House originating it shall pursuant to article 110 (3) of the Constitution seek the concurrence of the Speaker of the other House,” the proposal states.
It states that the speaker from whom concurrence is sought will have seven days from the date of request to respond.
The bill provides that where the response is not received within seven days, the Speaker of the originating House may direct the Bill to be read for the first time.