In-tray full with key bills as Parliament resumes sittings

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Statistics bill 2019 is among the bills that will be given the highest priority as the National Assembly and Senate resume sittings on Tuesday for their third session after the 2017 general election.

The two Houses had been on a month-long Christmas recess and resume duty to a packed in-tray.

The statistics bill, which is awaiting publication, has significant implications on the national census to be held in August.

It is an amendment to the Statistics Act of 2006 that establishes the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) for the collection, compilation, analysis, publication and dissemination of statistical information, and the coordination of the national statistics system.

There is also the Budget Policy Statement (BPS) that Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich is to present to MPs February 15, according to the Public Finance Management Act.

The BPS outlines the country’s expenditure priorities and revenue collection measures as well as deficits.

Parliament has also prioritised the passing of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Amendment bill to provide the mechanism for hiring new commissioners whenever vacancies arises.

This is informed by the resignation of four members of the seven- member commission in October 2017 and in April 2018.

As currently constituted, the IEBC Act has no such mechanism hence the need to recruit commissioners ahead of the census and delimit electoral boundaries ahead of the 2022 general elections.

The Land Value Index Laws (Amendment) 2018 bill is also crucial to the government’s infrastructure development plan.

It aims to address the matter of land compensation by providing for negotiated valuation that will bring down the cost thereby helping the government to roll out projects faster.

The other bills the House wants to prioritise include Energy Bill of 2017, Petroleum Bill 2017, Kenya Roads Bill (NA Bill No. 47 of 2017) and the Government Contracts Bill of 2018.

The MPs expect to conclude matters on the BPS to ensure the Division of Revenue bill and the County Revenue Allocation bill are passed in time.

However, they are grappling with whether the budget cycle will be affected as in September 2018, the High Court in Nairobi declared the provisional collection of taxes unconstitutional before the passage of the Finance bill. This followed a petition by activist Okiya Omtatah.

High Court Judge Winfrida Okwany said the National Assembly must pass the Finance bill before appropriating national resources.

The implication of the ruling is an amendment to the Public Finance Management Act, which says the Finance bill must be passed 90 days with the passing of the Appropriations bill.

During a leadership meeting of the two Houses in Mombasa in December, President Uhuru Kenyatta was concerned about slow progress on bills.

It emerged that majority, including the Land Value Index Laws, Energy, Petroleum, Physical Planning, Roads and Government Contracts bills, were stuck in the Senate.

The Petroleum bill had been passed by the two Houses but the President rejected it with a memorandum over revenue sharing.

The National Assembly passed it in the last Parliament but it has been lying in Senate since then.

The case is the same with the Energy bill – it was passed in the National Assembly in the last Parliament, rejected by the President, reconsidered by National Assembly, sent to the Senate, lapsed, republished and then sent back to the Senate, where it remains.

President Kenyatta rejected it after Mvita MP Abdulswamad Sharif forced an amendment for Kenya Power compensate Kenyans and manufacturers for power outages.

The Roads bill has also been lying in the Senate since it was passed in the last Parliament.

The two are among bills aimed at supporting vision 2030.

The Physical Planning bill was to be passed within the first five years of the implementation of the Constitution.

The Government Contracts bill, which states who between the national and county governments should sign agreements, is also expected to be prioritised.

During his unveiling of the 2018/19 budget in June last year, CS Rotich proposed to have the Insurance bill and the Sacco Societies (Amendment) bill prioritised to support the budget.

The bills were due before the end of last year but were delayed.

The National Assembly is also expected to receive a memorandum from the President on why he rejected the Health Laws (Amendment) bill.

There is also the post facto approval request from the National Treasury on the victims of the Solai dam tragedy in Nakuru that is pending before the National Assembly committee on Budget and Appropriations.

The other bills include the Statute Law Miscellaneous (Amendment) bill No 2 that seeks to amend 15 pieces of legislation. It is awaiting the second reading in the National Assembly.

There is also the Sports bill that is at the second reading and the County Governments (Amendment) bill, currently in the National Assembly.

The bill by Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen provides the mechanisms of appointing deputy governors whenever vacancies arise and clarifies their roles.

It also provides for the position of a deputy speaker at county assemblies.