CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Speaker Muturi clips unionist MPs' powers

Rules that they must adhere to requirement of the Leadership and Integrity Act on objectivity and impartiality

In Summary

• Knut boss Sossion and Emuhaya MP Omboko Milemba of Kuppet are members of Education committee.

• Such MPs may use information from committees to advance interests of their unions outside Parliament.

Nominated MP and Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion
RULING: Nominated MP and Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion
Image: FILE

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has clipped the powers of unionist MPs, setting conditions for which they can participate in matters concerning bodies where they are members.

The decision came after Tinderet MP Julius Melly sought the Speaker’s guidance on whether nominated MP Wilson Sossion (Knut secretary general) should participate in committee matters involving the union.

The Knut boss is a member of the Education committee as well as Emuhaya MP Omboko Milemba of Kuppet.

Other MPs who represent the youth, people living with disabilities, and special interest groups were not exempted.

The argument is that such MPs may use information from committees to advance interests of the unions outside Parliament.

Of contention is whether MPs expressing interest on a matter should be allowed to participate in the ensuing discussion and whether such a member should take part in the vetting of a nominee for appointment.

The regulation on declaration of interest says that when a member seeks to speak on a matter, they should declare their personal and business relationships as well as proprietary interests.

Muturi, in his ruling, said much as having a personal interest is not prohibited, MPs must adhere to the requirement of the Leadership and Integrity Act on objectivity and impartiality.

He cited Article 122 (3) of the Constitution which precludes MPs from voting on a matter where they have pecuniary interest.

“Any member who declares interest which is in conflict with their official duties must refrain from deliberations on the matter,” Muturi said.

 
 

 “It is not an offence to belong to a union but it is gross misconduct and out of order to wear the hat of a workers representative and at the same time purport to wear the hat of an MP."

Muturi asked MPs to declare their interests to committee chairpersons who have powers to either allow the member to sit through the debate or send such a person away.

“Members who have interests should declare at the beginning or during the debate and recuse themselves from the deliberations as may be directed by the respective chairs,” he added.

The Speaker said the interests of a spouse, relative or business associate are considered in the directive, adding that the interest should be declared at the onset of a discussion that elicits the interest.

“When a member wishes to speak on a matter they have interest in, he or should declare it first and any failure amounts to misconduct and abuse of privilege.”

Muturi further reminded MPs that such declaration shall be recorded in line with Section 16 of the Leadership Act which requires public entities to maintain a register of interests by officers.

Public officers are expected to declare their directorships of companies, ownership of shares, contracts for supply of goods and services, funded trips and future expectations of employment.

They are also required by the law to declare their land and property, direct or indirect gifts, benefits of hospitality, pending civil or criminal cases, business associates of firms and possession of dual citizenship.

“Each state officer is required to update the status of interest declared with a state entity within a month of such change,” Muturi told MPs.

He said chairmen must not hesitate to invoke the Powers and Privileges Act, whose Section 17 c provides the committee may find a member to be in breach of privilege if a member willfully disregards the rules.

“Members who defy the rule are liable for disciplinary action,” the Speaker said in the May 9 ruling. “Let us all register with the Speaker all financial and non-financial interests that may influence our actions, including debates on matters under deliberation.”

He urged MPs to borrow from cases in the UK, USA and Australia whose parliaments have a wide conflict of interest regime.

On vetting of nominees, Muturi held that such a member should rely on their conscience “but should not vote.”