- The push started as a request by PAC chairman Opiyo Wandayi that the Speaker should exempt his oversight panel from virtual meetings.
- According to Wandayi, the directive is hurting their oversight role and could lead to piling up of the critical committee business.
Legislators are putting pressure on Speaker Justin Muturi to lift the lockdown on the House, arguing that the it is hurting their oversight role.
It all started on Tuesday as a request by Public Accounts Committee chairman Opiyo Wandayi to exempt his oversight panel from the directive that all committee meetings should be held virtually.
Wandayi argued that the directive was hurting their oversight role and would lead to the piling up of the critical committee business.
Parliament, through PAC, is constitutionally mandated to oversight national revenue and expenditures to ensure prudent use of taxpayers’ money.
“The nature of the proceedings of PAC is such that it is neither feasible nor practical to engage with an accounting officer remotely or virtually. Firstly, the nature of documents that an accounting officer would ordinarily produce before the committee and make reference on require physical presence of the accounting officer,” Wandayi said.
“The PAC hearings being quasi-judicial require that the committee members get to assess the demeanour of witnesses in order to inform the committee observations and attendant recommendations.”
The Ugunja MP’s push was supported by PAC vice chairperson Jessica Mbalu (Kibwezi East) and Garissa Township MP Aden Duale, who is a member.
Duale said that conducting the business of the committee virtually will put MPs at the mercy of accounting officers, hence derailing the oversight job.
“If an accounting officer is on the hot seat and he feels the heat, all he needs to do is to say he has internet problem and disappear,” the former Majority Leader said.
The PAC members’ request opened the floodgates with lawmakers calling for the resumption of normal operations just like other sectors of the country’s economy.
MPs rooted for the relaxation of the restrictions, fearing that the Speaker’s directive will affect the general House performance.
Alego Usonga MP Sam Atandi demanded full opening of Parliament to allow the committees to discharge their mandates.
“All committees in Parliament are important and they examine documents. I have been in Finance Committee and that is one committee that is heavy in terms of documents. You (Speaker) should consider opening up Parliament to transact business as usual,” Atandi said.
“We are the only people who fear this Covid-19 thing. Any other sector of the economy is working as normal.”
Nyando's Jared Okelo also supported the physical operation of committees, saying that is the only way MPs can ascertain the authenticity of - sometimes - voluminous documents presented to them.
Last week, Muturi - in a communication to the House- discouraged any form of physical contact within Parliament. He directed the committees to adopt full virtual meetings beginning Tuesday this week.
This was necessitated by reports that a number of MPs, including parliamentary staff, had contracted the disease.
On Tuesday, Minority leader John Mbadi said 36 parliamentary staff had tested positive.
“Parliament is a small area with a very high population. Already among us a few members have contracted the virus and we don’t know because many of us have not tested,” he said.
“The truth of the matter is that over 30 members of staff who serve us on daily basis have contracted the virus and the last time we checked they were 36.”
- mwaniki fm