MPs start debate on NIS Bill
MPs are today expected to start debate on the National Intelligence Service Bill which contains crucial proposals that touch on the country’s security. The Bill has been listed in today’s order paper as coming to the House for the second reading which means commencement of the debate.
The MPs are however supposed to first debate the controversial Leadership and Integrity Bill whose debate commenced last week.Key changes contained in the NIS Bill 2012 include allowing intelligence officers to carry guns. The clause is aimed at assisting the spy agency to deal with the increasing security threats especially that of terrorism.
Officers will be required to first use non violent means. The Bill also seeks to give the agency’s Director General powers to order a search in any premise in case of an emergency but seek a court warrant within 36 hours after the operation. If there is no emergency, the director general must first acquire a court warrant before searching any premises.
The agency’s legal officers who appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Foreign relations last week said the new powers are meant to assist the service to adequately deal with the threat of terrorism and other acts that could jeopardize the country’s national security.
To check abuse of power by the agencies officers, it has been proposed that MPs set a new committee that will exercise oversight powers over the administration, expenditure and policy of the service and report to Parliament.
Over the years, the operations of the agency have remained a top secret. If passed into law, MPs, who act on behalf of the public, will have a chance to scrutinise the operations of the NIS, including its expenditures, for accountability purposes.
The MPs will also be seeking to enhance the punishment of the errant officers by imposing a fine of Sh 5 million or 10 years in jail or both for those who will violate the new Act.
To ensure further accountability of the service and the adherence to the rule of law, the Bill proposes that a special council be created where members of the public can lodge complaints and grievances touching on the intelligence agency.
Members of the Complaints Council will be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission. The Bill is aimed at operationalising Article 242 of the constitution which provides for the creation of an agency responsible for security intelligence and counter intelligence to enhance national security in accordance with the constitution.