Ignoring the Laws Contributes to Chaos in Assemblies
Members of County and National Assemblies have developed a culture of creating chaotic scenes at the Assemblies and getting away with it.
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja told ROGGKenya that failure to implement the Leadership and Integrity Act fully has contributed to this unfortunate and embarrassing situation across the country.
“Sometimes members become very emotional on some matters leading to the chaos we have witnessed not only in county assemblies but also in Parliament particularly the National Assembly when I was there as a member,” Sakaja said.
He noted that some members engage in chaos to prove their unwavering loyalty to their political parties on matters their party leadership is opposed to.
“The MCAs should conduct themselves with decorum to end chaos in county assemblies. The House leadership especially the Speakers should fully implement laid down disciplinary measures and EACC’s intervention should be the last resort,” Sakaja said.
Members of County Assembly (MCAs) in the 47 devolved uits resumed their sittings in February after breaking for the long recess in December 2019.
However, Kenyans are likely to be treated to the MCAs’ chaotic dramas that have been rocking many county assemblies every session since their formation in 2013.
Although political parties have the Dispute Resolutions Committees and Disciplinary Committee responsible for restoring sanity among their wrangling members, most of the parties have been unable to bring their rogue members to order and instead casting the ball to Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission ( EACC) to take action against them.
Nairobi County Assembly, for instance, witnessed a series of chaos in 2018 and last year over leadership wrangles pitting rowdy MCAs supporting the then embattled Speaker Beatrice Elachi and those opposed to her.
The city assembly was reduced to a battle field for more than a year after Elachi was impeached in September 2018 from a myriad of claims such as abuse of office.
The MCAs accused her of illegally spending millions of shillings from public coffers on foreign trips and undermining the County Assembly Board by assuming its powers in purporting to “secretly and unilaterally” appoint officers of the board as accounting officers against the laid down laws.
Elachi was also accused of violating the leadership and integrity laws by perpetrating tribalism and nepotism through giving special favors to members from a particular community, threatening and intimidating the County Assembly Service officers, and breaking the Assembly’s rules or Standing Orders when chairing sittings as reported in this article;
Her bid to report back to office after being reinstated by the High Court was met with fierce resistance from rowdy MCAs where MCAs allied to the Speaker escalated their anger by staging a coup against Majority Leader Abdi Guyo and Majority Whip Waithera Chege leading their troops to bar Elachi from accessing her office.
However, no MCA has so far been punished severely such as losing their seat for undermining the House rules and the ethical Leadership and Integrity code.
Garissa, Kisumu, Kiambu, Murang’a, Nyandarua, Homa Bay, Kakamega, Makueni, among other counties have experienced the same chaos. In some cases MCAs were captured on camera exchanging blows. This prompted the police to use teargas and gunshots.
Some MCAs have been clashing due to leadership wrangles in the assembly, rivalry pitting members defending and those opposing a governor or county executive members to be impeached.
Impeachment of Governors
It has however been very easy for the MCAs to punish their governors through impeachments. Their claims range from abuse of office, graft, among others. Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu is the latest victim of the impeachment and losing his seat. The Senate heard the allegations leveled against him and voted to concur with the MCAs.
In February 2019, EACC summoned and questioned 10 Kisumu MCAs over the county assembly chaos. Surprisingly, the EACC’s grilling didn’t impact much on their disorderly conduct.
The House was later in September reduced to a boxing ring. MCAs exchanged blows over a motion to impeach Speaker Onyango Oloo. Oloo was charged with fraud over loss of Sh1.8 billion at the Lake Basin Development Authority while serving as the chairman. The chaotic scenes in the assembly prompted the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to summon five MCAs for interrogation.
In October 2018, EACC summoned the Kakamega County Assembly Speaker Morris Buluma and seven MCAs for misconduct following chaos that rocked the House. Mr. Buluma who was later ousted by the irate MCAs was accused of mismanaging the assembly’s funds and denying some of them car loans and house mortgage.
What makes it difficult to punish rowdy MCAs ?
There are numerous laws and rules providing how public officers including MCAs should conduct themselves and provisions on disciplinary measures to be imposed on those violating them. Every county assembly has a special panel, the Powers and Privileges Committee chaired by the Speaker. They are tasked with interrogating and taking appropriate action against members involved in disorderly conduct. The manner in which MCAs should conduct themselves, for instance, is detailed in the County Assemblies Powers and Privileges Act, 2017.
Part IV of the Act on Breach of Privileges by MCAs gives powers the Speaker-led Powers and Privileges team to impose appropriate penalties to members found guilty of breaking rules and regulations pertaining to ethical conduct. The penalties include a formal warning, a reprimand, an order to apologize to the House, withholding some rights the member enjoys within the assembly, removal or suspension of a member for a specified period of time, and fine in terms of the member’s monthly salary and allowances.
Section 26 (1a) of the Act on Enforcement states, “A person shall not assault, threaten, use abusive language, obstruct, molest or insult any member proceeding to, being within or leaving the precincts of a county assembly, or endeavour to compel any member by force, insult or menace to declare himself or herself in favour of or against any proposition or matter pending or expected to be brought before a county assembly or any committee.”
MCAs culpable of engaging in unethical conduct violating the powers and immunities of the Assembly risk losing their seats as per the Constitution’s Articles 75 (2b) on the Conduct of State/Public officers
and 194 (1c) on enacted laws and procedures of removing an MCA from the seat
Despite having these laws, their full enforcement remains a problem since rogue MCAs are always slapped with lenient penalties, thus, leading to unending chaos in county assemblies.
What journalists should do:
- Properly understand and tell the audience the root cause of chaos
- Familiarize ourselves with the Leadership and Integrity principles and the 2010 Constitution provisions on how State/ public officers should conduct themselves.
- Follow keenly the county assembly’s powers and privileges committee inquiry into the conduct of rogue MCAs and the penalties imposed to them
- Get acquainted with provisions in law on numerous penalties rogue MCAs should be slapped with for breaching their privileges by causing chaos
- Put political parties, the county assembly leadership, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations on toes to fully enforce existing disciplinary laws for rogue MCAs.
- Always follow up on the status of the disciplinary action against the rogue MCAs and keep the public informed.
By Samuel kisika