Wednesday, December 10, 2008



December 11, 2008

THE protocol war pitting Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka resurfaced in the House yesterday before MPs approved the Sessional Paper outlining new changes to the House Standing Orders. MPs allied to the V-P pushed a further amendment to have V-P given 15 minutes to respond to queries from the members after issuing the weekly programme of Parliament every Thursday’s.

In the Sessional Paper the legislators adopted in a Committee of the Whole House chaired by Speaker Kenneth Marende, Raila is allocated 45 minutes to deliver statements and respond to questions from MPs every Wednesday between 3.00 to 3.45 pm. The proposed Standing Orders shall come into operation on the date of the commencement of the Third Session of the Tenth Parliament expected in March next year after the long recess that starts sometimes this month. Mwingi South MP David Musila, who moved the amendment, said there was need for the V-P to respond to legislators after announcing business of Parliament in the following week.

He was supported by MPs allied to President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU), while those allied to Raila’s ODM opposed it. Those who supported the amendment said there was need to institutionalise the Office of the Leader of Government Business without taking into account the holder will be the V-P. But those who opposed said with the PM answering questions from MPs, allowing the VP a similar role was meant to undermine the former.

Those who ganged up to support Musila included Musyoka, Information minister Samuel Porgisio, Local Government assistant minister Robinson Githae, and Government Chief Whip George Thuo. Gitobu Imanyara, who chaired the subcommittee on Standing Orders, opposed Musila’s amendments along with Turkana Central MP Ekwee Ethuro. ODM legislators who opposed the amendment were Jakoyo Midiwo and Millicent Odhiambo. But when Marende put the matter to question, Musila’s amendment sailed through acclamation.

Among other changes include empowering one third of MPs to ask the Speaker to summon Parliament during recess. With the enactments, the speech by the President would be laid on the table of the House and its debate limited to a maximum of four sitting days. Previously, the President reads through his speech and debate takes seven days.

On a related issue, a proviso to allow a visiting head of state to address the House would be inserted. The committee further proposes that the sitting days be added to Thursday morning in addition to the current sitting days (Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday whole day and Thursday afternoon). In the proposed changes new committees are to be established; Local Authorities and Funds Accounts Committee, Budget Committee, Committee on Delegated Legislation, Implementation Committee, Committee on Equal Opportunity and House Broadcasting Committee.

Unlike in the past when all committee proceedings were in camera, if MPs approve the proposed changes in the standing orders, they would be open to the public except-where the committee otherwise decides or when the committee is considering its recommendations for the purposes of its report. That, a minister who fails to submit a report on implementation of committee report be deemed to be disorderly, notes the new changes.