The National Assembly

The National Assembly is one of the two arms or chambers of parliament, the other being the Senate.

The role of the National Assembly and in extension the role of a Member of Parliament is to be found in Article 95 of the Kenyan Constitution.

From how media report on Members of Parliament it seems that there is a lot of misunderstanding about their role. (See below.)

The Role of the National Assembly
Representing the people
  • The National Assembly represents the people of the constituencies and their special interests in the National Assembly.
  • The National Assembly also deliberates on and resolves issues of concern to the people.
Legislation and Oversight
  1. Role of the National Assembly in Public Finance

    The National Assembly determines the allocation of national revenue between the levels of government (the national and the county governments). This process is known as the Division of Revenue and is guided by Article 217 and Article 218 of the Constitution. This is a joint function between the National Assembly and the Senate.

  • First, the National Assembly deliberates on a resolution by the Senate on the revenue sharing formula for the money it allocates jointly with the Senate to the County Governments. Within ten days after the Senate adopts the resolution, the Speaker of the Senate should refer the resolution to the Speaker of the National Assembly. The National Assembly may then consider and vote on the resolution within 60 days. Read more on the process in Article 217 of the constitution.
  • Secondly, the National Assembly takes part in the division of revenue between the national and the county governments through the Division of Revenue Bill. The National Treasury Cabinet Secretary tables the Division of Revenue Bill before the National Assembly. The National Assembly then deliberates on the Bill, which divides revenue raised by the national government among the national and county levels of government. The Bill later passes to the Senate. If both houses do not agree on the Bill, they form a mediation committee from members of both houses in accordance with Article 113 of the Constitution.
  • Thirdly, the National Assembly appropriates funds for expenditure by the national government and other national State organs. The national assembly allocates money for the national government ministries, departments and agencies, commissions and independent bodies alike. The National Assembly performs this function through the budget where it determines the amount that goes to each of these organs and bodies. It can allocate or reallocate money for each of these bodies or organs to ensure equity in resource sharing. In performing the the above roles, the National Assembly is guided by the Budget and Appropriations Committee.
  • The National Assembly also exercises oversight over national revenue and its expenditure. The National Assembly has the power to summon national government officials including ministers and public officers to answer to questions on government expenditure Article 125 of the Constitution. The National Assembly is guided by its committees when performing this role, especially the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Investments Committee.
  • On oversight, the National Assembly adopts reports on government expenditure from independent offices such as the Auditor General and the Controller of Budget. It then uses the reports as a basis to summon government officials to provide answers on government expenditure and to provide recommendations to address the issues identified during oversight.

2. Role of the National Assembly in Legislation

  • The National Assembly should consider and debate bills that do not concern counties Article 11o of the Constitution. (It is the role of the Senate to debate and amend the bills concerning counties.) The laws that do not concern the counties laws should be laws that are in line with the national government functions stipulated in Schedule Four.
  • But having said this: The National Assembly also has a role to play in bills concerning counties. These are special bills and ordinary bills. A special bill relates to the election of members of a county assembly or a county executive or the annual County Allocation of Revenue Bill referred to in Article 218.
  • An ordinary bill concerning the counties can originate from the National Assembly or the Senate. The National Assembly can also amend or veto a special bill that has been passed by the Senate by a resolution supported by at least two-thirds of the members of the Assembly.
  • The National Assembly should also receive petitions from the public and act on them accordingly Article 119 of the Constitution. The process to petition the National Assembly to consider any matter under its authority (including to enact, amend or repeal any legislation) is contained in the Petitions to Parliament (Procedure) Act 2012.
Reviewing the Conduct of State Officers and oversight of state organs
  • The National Assembly reviews the conduct in office of the President, the Deputy President and other State officers and initiates the process of removing them from office. The other state officers include cabinet secretaries, judges and members of commissions and independent bodies.
  • The National Assembly exercises oversight of state organs. The National Assembly ensures that the state organs operate within the law and do not infringe on the independence of the other organs, including performing functions that belong to another organ (separation of powers).
Declaration of War and State of Emergency

The National Assembly approves declarations of war and extensions of states of emergency. The president as the commander-in-chief is the only one mandated with the authority to declare war. However, the president must seek the approval of the National Assembly before declaring war. The same applies to extending the state of emergency.

Role of Committees in the National Assembly

All work of the National Assembly is prepared and guided by Committees that are in charge of specific sectors of the state. Therefore, if media scrutinize the work of an MP it is advisable to see which committees he is sitting in and what he has done there. A member of the committee for agriculture for example should be an expert in this and be able to answer questions regarding the oversight in this field, whereas the actual implementation of policies still lies on the Ministry of Agriculture in the National Government.
To get an overview over the committees, see their pages on the parliament website.

Role of MPs in their constituencies

In many cases the track record of an MP is being judged by others (including media) according to the “development record” he has in bringing benefits to his constituency. This is wrong. The MP is not in charge of bringing benefits or infrastructure. It is the national and the county government who are in charge. An MP can only oversee this process on behalf of his constituency and demand what his constituency should get.

The MP can also mobilize residents from his or her constituency to identify priorities that are most important to them under the funtions performed by the national government in Schedule Four of the constitution and forward them to the government for review and inclusion in the planning process.

Role of MPs in the (NG-) Community Development Fund

Even the (NG-)CDF, the (National Government) Constituencies Development Fund plays a limited role for the development record of an MP. The CDF budgets receive only 2.5 percent of the state’s income, whereas the bulk of expenditure for roads, health, education, agriculture and so on is governed by the national government and the county governments. MPs have some say in the expenditure of the NG-CDF in his constituency. But if the rule of law is followed they do not have the final word and can in no way boast with or be accused of the track record of “their” CDF alone.

Links:

The Assembly Website
Assembly Committees

 

Is your County Budget Making Process on Schedule?

The county governments are rushing to complete their budget making process for the financial year 2017/2018 in accordance with a circular by the National Treasury advising counties to complete their budget process by 31st March 2017. The county governments revised their budget calendars and the county budget making process is being rushed to ensure that it is in line with the revised schedule that intends to ensure that the budget making process does not conflict with the general elections scheduled for August 2017.

Questions had been raised that the budgets for next year may be illegal due to the delay by the County Executive in tabling important documents before the Assembly and making them available for public inquiry. But what should enable you to know whether the budget making process for your county government is on schedule? You should find out the key documents and timelines for budget making that the county has carried out so far.

Key Documents that should be available by now

By now (early December 2016), most counties are expected to have prepared and tabled their draft County Fiscal Strategy Paper (CFSP) before the County Assembly. The National Government equivalent, the Budget Policy Statement, should have been tabled earlier than the CFSP because it contains draft recommedations on the division of revenue for the counties.

Apart from the CFSPs, other documents that should already be available are-

  • Budget circular –  for most counties these should have been available by 30th August. They direct county departments on how to prepare their budgets. You will also find the (revised) budget calendar in the circular that contains the guidelines for public participation in the budget process.
  • Annual Development Plan (ADP) – Every county is supposed to have tabled this document by September 1st. For more on the ADP, click here.
  • County Budget Review and Outlook Paper (CBROP) – The CBROP is important in that it reviews the previous year’s budget performance, it updates current year economic expectations, and it proposes provisional ceilings for each sector.
  • And now we should expect the draft County Fiscal Strategy Paper.
Key events in the revised budget calendar that should have already taken place

By now, most counties should have already conducted their Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) budget hearings. Basically, these are sector hearings where the county government organizes public forums to seek public views and input that will be incorporated in the County Fiscal Strategy Paper.

The public should be provided with a chance to decide whether they agree with the provisional ceilings provided in the CBROP. The provisional ceilings are basically temporary allocations to each sector, say sh10 million for agriculture or sh20 milliuon for health. These provisional ceilings are subject to change when the hearings to consider the public views to incorporate into the CFSP (MTEF budget or sector hearings) take place. The revised ceilings are then incorporated in the CFSP.

Apart from the ceilings, the public should be able to review the sector (and subsector) priorities for the counties. For example, whether to prioritize health over agriculture. These priorities will then be incorporated in the CFSP.

The MTEF budget caters for the coming financial year and the medium term (usually the next two years after the coming financial year). So the 2016 MTEF budget or sector hearings will cover the financial year 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20.

Most county governments carried out their sector hearings on the CFSP between late October to November. A few also held the hearings in early December.

What to expect in the coming months

In the month of December, we should expect the county assemblies to deliberate and pass the CFSP with public input incorporated. The CFSP will determine the amount of money allocated for each sector and county priorities and projections for revenue and expenditure.

In January 2017, we should expect the county governments to prepare their draft programme based budgets and present them to the County Executive Committee for approval. In February, the draft budget estimates should be tabled before the Assembly for consideration and the public hearings on the budget estimates should take place between this time and early March 2017. In March, be on the lookout for  the final approved budget, the Appropriation Bill and the Finance Bill.

The Appropriation Bill allows the counties to withdraw and spend money from the County Revenue Fund once the Assembly passes the bill into an Appropriation Act. The Finance Bill once passed into the Finance Act allows contains the revenue raising measures proposed by the county government to finance the budget.

Research Questions for Journalists
  1. What is my county’s revised budget calendar? Every county government has a budget calendar for every financial year. You should find the calendar in the county’s budget circular (if it is not available online, you can request from the county Assembly).
  2. Has my county stuck on the proposed key dates and timelines in the revised budget calendar? What has it achieved so far in line with the calendar?
  3. Are all the documents that should be available by now online? That is, the budget circular, the ADP, CBROP and CFSP? It is a good practice for the county governments to avail these documents online to facilitate public participation. You can find out about this by referring to your county’s website.
  4. Did my county carry out the sector (MTEF budget) hearings? If so, have the views presented by the public been incorporated in the CFSP? Most CFSPs should have a ‘risk’ section showing to what extent the county government considered or deviated from the views presented by the public.
  5. What to expect in the coming months with regard to the budget cycle?