Exposed: Watchdog smokes out least performing MPs

Mzalendo Trust says Parliament overall performance lowest compared with past sessions

In Summary

• MPs from Homa Bay county fare better as well as Trans Nzoia, Kericho, West Pokot and Bungoma.

• Garissa, Tana River, Turkana, Kwale and Narok MPs were rated lowest in the scorecard.

Members of the National assembly at Parliament./File
Members of the National assembly at Parliament./File

They are boisterous in religious gatherings, rallies and press conferences but their silence in Parliament, where they represent constituents, is deafening.

Some 22 of them, in both the Senate and National Assembly, did not utter a word on the floor of Parliament for a year.

Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, a fierce defender of Deputy President William Ruto, his Makadara counterpart George Aladwa and Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama are among those who said nothing in Parliament in 2019.

A new report by a parliamentary watchdog — Mzalendo Trust— shows that these three and some of the most vocal leaders outside Parliament are the least performing lawmakers.

Last year’s report by the same organisation also showed that Sudi and Arama did not contribute anything in Parliament in 2018. Then, Aladwa had only spoken once.

Others who have not spoken are Shinyalu MP Justus Kizito, Alfred Sambu of Webuye East and John Naicca of Mumias West.

From North Eastern, Abdi Shurie of Balambala and Amina Gedow from Mandera were cited for not speaking.

From Nyanza, Walter Owino of Awendo did not say a word in the plenary.

The others are James Gakuya of Embakasi North, Geofrey King'ang'i of Mbeere South, Stanley Muthama (Lamu West), Abdi Tepo (Isiolo South), Ahmed Bashane (Tarbaj), Amin Deddy (Laikipia East), Beatrice Kones (Bomet East), Gideon Konchella (Kilgoris), James Lusweti (Kabuchai), and Makueni Woman Representative Rose Mumo.

Vocal Bahati MP Onesmus Ngunjiri, Mark Nyamitta (Uriri), Silas Tiren (Moiben) also did not do well. 

In the Senate, Busia's Amos Wako, who is a former Attorney General and member of the Building Bridges Initiative, was among five lawmakers who did not open their mouths in 2019.

Senators Mercy Chebeni, Christine Zawadi Gona, and Philip Mpaayei also did not speak for a year.

Mzalendo Trust executive director Caroline Gaita said that legislative development primarily takes place in the House and “to completely abdicate this responsibility is therefore a dishonour to those who elected them.” 

The MPs would be scapegoating by arguing that even if they did not speak in the plenary, they participate in committees and work in constituencies, Gaita said.

She noted that non-participation in the plenary brings disrepute to the integrity of Parliament as an institution.

“It is a violation of Articles 94, 95 and 96 of the Constitution,” she added, citing the need to safeguard the independence of Parliament  in the wake of diminished role of the opposition.

Top performers

Overall, Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo was the most active member with 334 speech counts followed by David Sankok (nominated), Wilberforce Oundo (Funyula), and Robert Pukose (Endebess).

Jacqueline Oduol (nominated), Jennifer Shamala (nominated), Ruweida Obo (Lamu) and Sophia Noor (Ijara) were the top-performing women in the National Assembly.

In the Senate, the top performers were Ledama Olekina (Narok) with 461 counts followed by Bungoma’s Moses Wetang'ula, Aaron Cheruiyot of Kericho, Migori’s Ochillo Ayako, and Getrude Msuruve (nominated).

The report further reveals that the 12th Parliament’s third session’s performance was the lowest compared with previous ones, putting Speaker Justin Muturi (National Assembly) and his Senate counterpart Kenneth Lusaka on the spot.

Gaita attributed this to the fact that only 24 Bills of the 116 passed by the National Assembly were assented to.

“This is translating to about 21 per cent, the lowest in five years. The Senate passed a total of 34 Bills out of which only four were assented to, translating to only 12 per cent,” she said.

The watchdog says that the number of MPs who made no contributions has increased to a record 19 for the National Assembly and three for the Senate.

There are concerns that President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga’s Handshake has muzzled Parliament, with party loyalty overriding members' oversight mandate.

Uhuru's and Raila's influence was rife in the recent changes in House leadership which saw Ruto's allies kicked out of plum posts.

“The need to safeguard the independence and performance of Parliament, therefore, cannot be gainsaid. Oversight is especially important in ensuring accountability from all government agencies,” Gaita said.

The scorecard revealed that MPs from Homa Bay fare better alongside their counterparts from Trans Nzoia, Kericho, West Pokot and Bungoma in that order.

Those from Garissa, Tana River, Turkana, Kwale and Narok were rated lowest in the scorecard.

According to the report, MPs who did not speak technically made no contribution to the 116 Bills, 679 questions, 174 motions and 175 statutory instruments that were discussed in the National Assembly in 2019.

The Senate on the other hand dealt with 34 Bills, 96 motions, 275 statements and 83 messages during the period under review.

In terms of committee work, the National Assembly had 1,211 committee sittings in 2019, while the Senate had 505 sittings.

Mzalendo Trust says that the average performance of male members of National Assembly is 21 speech counts of which 69 per cent of all male MPs score poorly.

“The average performance of female MPs is 18 speech counts. At least 25 per cent of them are above this average performance; the rest are below average.”

On account of the number of speeches in the plenary, Jubilee was rated the best-performing party, followed by ODM and Wiper.

However, Jubilee's average was 18, which was below the National Assembly average of 20. Most Jubilee MPs are below average in terms of performance in the plenary.

In the Senate, on account of the number of speeches, ODM is the best-performing party, followed by Jubilee and ANC.

“On account of average, ODM had the highest average performance since most ODM MPs are active in the plenary,” the report reads. “ODM Senators are above the average performance of Senate.”

The review also focused on the top performing youth, party participation in the plenary and performance of committee chairs.

With regard to committees, former chair of Budget and Appropriations Committee and Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung'wa was rated the best.

He was followed by Kipkelion East MP Joseph Limo, who was recently de-whipped as chair of the Finance and Planning Committee.

Kitui South MP Rachael Nyamai, Lands Committee chair, was rated third best followed by Energy Committee chair David Gikaria and Baringo North’s William Cheptumo, who was ousted from JLAC.

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja is the top performing Senate committee chair followed by Samson Cherarkey – who has since been de-whipped from the Legal Affairs Committee.

Sakaja chairs the Labour and Social Welfare committee and is currently steering the Senate committee on Covid-19 emergency response.

Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang' was also rated highly at the County Public Accounts and Investment Committee followed by Finance’s Mohammed Maalim, and Samuel Phogisio – now Majority leader, at the Delegated Legislation Committee.

Vocal Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa emerged top among the most active youthful MPs alongside Murang’a’s Sabina Chege, Kiharu’s Ndindi Nyoro, Igembe North’s Paul Mwirigi, and Embakasi East’s Babu Owino.

“There was a total of seven private members Bills introduced by young members,” Mzalendo noted.

For nominated members, Sankok, who represents PWDs, was the most vocal, followed by Godfrey Osotsi representing workers and Jacqueline Oduol representing marginalised women.

Sammy Seroney, representing workers, was least active among special interest representatives, followed by Nasri Ibrahim (minority) and youth representative Gideon Keter.

In the Senate, Msuruve was ranked the top female senator followed by nominated members Abshiro Halake, Farhiya Haji, Agnes Zani and Mary Seneta.

The average performance of female leaders in the Senate is 94 speech counts. Sakaja, Cherarkey, Kajwang’ and Kakamega’s Cleophas Malala were rated top performing youthful senators.

Gaita, however, raised concern that access to committees by members of the public still remains a challenge, particularly in the National Assembly.

Mzalendo says that approximately 72 per cent of the Senate committee sittings were accessible to the public compared with the National Assembly’s 55.2 per cent.

The report shows that Public Investment Committee, Public Accounts Committee, and Lands committee had the most open sittings.

“The Budget and Appropriations Committee, Finance and Planning Committee, and Select Committee on Regional Integration had the most closed sittings.”

For the Senate, the County Public Accounts and Investment, Lands, and the Justice committees had the most open sittings.

(edited by o. owino)