Newly elected Members of Parliament (MPs), in both the Senate and the National Assembly, took their oath of office on Thursday marking the beginning of the term of the 13th Parliament. An immediate task that the members undertook was the election of the Speakers and Deputy Speakers of both Houses.
Former Governor of Kilifi County, Hon. Amason Jeffah Kingi clinched the Senate Speaker seat with 46 votes out of 67. In the National Assembly, two-time Bungoma Senator, Hon. Moses Wetang’ula was declared the Speaker after garnering 215 votes against former Speaker Kenneth Marende’s 130 votes, who conceded in the first round.
Newly elected Meru Senator, Hon. Kathuri Murungi was declared the Deputy Speaker of the Senate, following the withdrawal of his only opponent, Kilifi Senator, Hon. Stewart Madzayo. Uasin Gishu Women Representative, Hon. Gladys Shollei was declared the National Assembly Deputy Speaker after garnering 198 votes against her opponent, Hon. Farah Maalim who got 139 votes and conceded in the first round.
With the two Houses having reached this decision, the next key task will be determining the leadership of the House by the two leading coalitions. The parliamentary groups for the ruling and opposing coalitions will have to reach a decision on the Majority and Minority Leaders, Whips, Chairs and Vice chairs of parliamentary committees and their membership.
Kenyans expect the MPs to hit the ground running to put in place policy reforms that would address issues of priority to mwananchi. Key among them is the high cost of living. This proved to be the dominant theme among our SMS respondents who called on the MPs to lower the cost of everyday consumer goods such as fuel, food, cooking oil and other household items.
Coincidentally, this is highlighted among the pledges that the administration of the President-elect, William Ruto will seek to actualize within 100 days of being in power. The Kenya Kwanza coalition committed to lowering the cost of living within 100 days by providing agricultural subsidy programmes and investing in agro-processing. Many Kenyans would be keen to see how this will be implemented at both national and county level but more importantly the sort of legislative interventions MPs would propose in response to this.
The Kenya Kwanza manifesto also committed to attaining the elusive two-thirds gender requirement within 100 days of governing. Currently, both Houses of Parliament fall short of this requirement. The National Assembly comprises of 82 women MPs, the highest number ever, that account for 23.5% of the House. The Senate on the other hand has 19 women Senators out of the 67 seats, accounting for 28.4%. However, the President-elect did not specify how his government would achieve this. Whether that is to be done through Parliament is left for us to see.
The other issue that haunts Kenyan entrepreneurs from the last administration is the matter of pending bills. The new government will be inheriting debt in pending bills estimated at half a trillion shillings. County governments aren’t spared from this burden with counties such as Machakos and Mombasa are reported to have pending bills as high as Ksh 2.8 billion and Ksh 4.29 billion, respectively. All of which are being inherited by new governors.
This perhaps calls for the immediate reintroduction and prioritization of the Prompt Payment Bill in the 13th Parliament after the Bill lapsed in the previous House. The issue of delayed payments, by counties especially, to entrepreneurs has threatened the success of mSMEs. With an agenda focused on uplifting the small business owners, elected officials ought to focus their energies on implementing responsive policies and overseeing their execution to the benefit of mwananchi.
Parliamentary committees, once constituted, will have the challenging task to pick up from where the last House left off. The Committee on Implementation for instance needs to start tracking the progress of the implementation of Bills, Motions and Report recommendations tabled and approved by members of the 12th Parliament.
Kenya has previously been criticized for having too many lows with poor implementation. The call to the new regime is to shift the narrative. An independent and citizen-focused Parliament should ensure that nothing slips through the cracks. The hope is that elected leaders under the ruling coalition will heed the call by Kenyans, to deliver. More importantly, that an active opposition will hold the incoming government to account and protect the interests of Kenyans in line with the Constitution. We, as Kenyans, look forward to a robust opposition.
Over to you, waheshimiwa!
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