The Senate

The Kenya Senate in session. (Source: KBC TV)
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The Kenyan Senate’ main tasks are all related to the counties. It is one of the two houses or chambers of parliament with the other being the National Assembly. (Article 93 of the Constitution ).

The Senate should make and amend laws (legislation), represent the counties (representation), and monitor the county governments (oversight).

Roles of the Senate

The Senate has several roles (Overview in Constitution Article 96) In general the Senate represents the counties. It should serve and protect the concerns and interests of the counties and the county governments. The Senate acts as an intergovernmental institution between the national government and the county governments.

Making Laws for Counties

(Article 110): The senate should consider, debate and approve bills that concern the counties – which is any law that is at least partly in line with the roles and functions of the county governments the constitution names in Schedule Four. The constitution distinguishes between “ordinary” bills and “special” bills. Special bills  are the yearly County Allocation of Revenue Bill and bills that concern the election of members of a county assembly or a county executive. Ordinary bills are all other bills that concern the counties. They have to be approved by both Houses of Parliament. (Article 112) Although the special Senate bills on the county governments have to be approved by the National Assembly as well, the Senate has a much larger weight in them, because the National Assembly may only overrule or amend these laws with a two-third majority (Constitution Article 111 (2) ). For the resolution of conflicts over bills between the two houses there is a mediation committee (Art. 113). For a list of the Senate bills click here (ext. link). Any other bill that has no implication for the counties can be decided by the Parliament alone withouth the Senate ( Constitution Article 109 (2) )

Deciding about the Revenue for Counties

Once every five years, the Senate should determine the basis for allocating the minimum 15 percent share of national revenue among the counties Article 217. The current Division of Revenue Bill passed by the Senate is based on the Allocations Recommendations Sharing Formula by the constitutional Commission on Revenue Allocation. See this file for details. The Senate may amend the Division of Revenue Bill within the five year term of the Allocation Bill with a majority of two thirds of the votes. In addition there is an annually Allocation of Revenue Bill ( Art. 218 ) that finally decides about how much each county should receive.

The Senate should also consider the amount of money the counties receive from the revenue collected nationally by the national government from sources like income tax and VAT Article 202. It does this through the Division of Revenue Act together with the National Assembly which determines the allocation for the national government Article 218(a). The Senate then determines from this share allocated to the counties the amount of money that each county should receive by using the revenue sharing formula Article 217 through the County Allocation of Revenue Act Article 218(b).

While the Senate has the authority to play oversight over the national revenue allocated to Counties Article 202 it cannot do so for the other sources of revenue for the counties (grants, loans, donor funds and local revenue) which is the role of the County Assembly.

Monitoring the Counties’ Expenditure

After allocating the revenue, the Senate should monitor how the county governments spend this money (oversight). It has the power to summon governors and other county officials to appear before it or its committees to give evidence or provide information Article 125. To do that, the Senate receives and acts on the reports on county governments’ expenditure of the national revenue allocated to them. These reports are the quarterly budget implementation reports by the Controller of Budget and the audit reports by the Auditor General.

Impeachment or Removal of the President or a Governor

The Senate also may participate in the impeachment and removal from office of the President or the Deputy President according to Contitution Article 145 or Article 144 (Incapacity).  On the initiative of two thirds of a county assembly the Senate may impeach a Governor for reasons given in Article 181 of the Constitution. The procedure for this is laid down on Section 33 of the County Governments Act. For reasons of incapacity the Senate also may even take the initiative to remove a Governor or the Deputy Governor from office – County Governments Act Section 33 (9) .

Members of the Senate

The Senate comprises 67 Senators. (Article 98)

  • There are 47 MPs elected by registered voters in the counties.
  • 16 special seats are reserved for women nominated by political parties according to their proportion of elected members in the Senate.
  • There are 4 special seats for the youth and persons with disabilities. Two members, a man and a woman, represent the youth and two members, a man a woman, represent the persons with disabilities.
  • The Speaker is an ex officio member of the Senate.

Therefore, there are 47 elected MPs and 20 nominated MPs in the Senate.

Recall of a Senator

The electorate in a county may recall their Senator (as well as their MP in their constituency) not earlier than two years after their election into office Article 104 of the Constitution. The recall can be made if the member is found, after due process of the law, to have violated the provisions of Chapter Six of the Constitution; have mismanaged public resources; or is convicted of an offence under the Elections Act. Only a judgement or finding of the High Court may initiate the recall  (Elections Act Sec. 45)  followed by a petition filed by a voter ( Elections Act Sec. 46 ).

Lead questions for journalists (EditorialRemark: These are questions for rehearsal like in a politology textbook, not the ones that should be answered by a journalist without any particular need)
  1. What is the relevance of the Senate? Relate this to the roles and functions of the Senate.
  2. Do the  Senators have the capacity to perform their duties as outlined in the Constitution?
  3. What is the role of the Senate in the budget process?
  4.  How do you recall a senator?