The two components of the Kenyan Parliament/legislature are;
- The National Assembly.
- The Senate.
The Composition and membership of the National Assembly.
- Two hundred and ninety members, each elected by the registered voters of single member constituencies.
- Forty-seven women, each elected by the registered voters of the counties, each county constituting a single member constituency.
- twelve members nominated by parliamentary political parties according to their proportion of members of the National Assembly to represent special interests including the youth, persons with disabilities and workers.
- The Speaker, who is an ex officio member.
Membership of the Senate
- forty-seven members each elected by the registered voters of the counties, each county constituting a single member constituency
- Sixteen women members nominated by political parties according to their proportion of members of the Senate elected.
- Two members, being one man and one woman, representing the youth.
- Two members, being one man and one woman, representing persons with disabilities.
- The Speaker, who shall be an ex officio member.
Office of parliament.
Speakers and deputy speakers.
Two Speakers, ex-officio member, one for each of the two houses.
Each is elected by members of the respective house from among persons who are qualified to be elected as members of parliament but are not MPs. A deputy speaker is elected from among members of each of the houses by the mps.
Their offices become vacant when;
- A new house of parliament first meets after an election.
- When he/she resigns, dies.
- When a house resolution of two-thirds removes him/her from office.
The speaker has no vote in parliament and in case of a tie, The question is lost. The six speakers in Kenya since independence include;
- 2013-present - Justin Muturi.
- 2008-2013- Kenneth Marende.
- 1993-2007- Francis Ole Kaparo
- 1991- 1992-Professor Jonathan Ngeno
- 1988- 1990-Moses Arap Keino
- 1970 – 1987- Frederick Mbiti Mati.
- 1964-1969-Humphrey Slade became the first speaker of the single house.
- 1963- Muinga Chokwe (speaker of the upper house)
- 1963- Humphrey slade (speaker of the lower house).
Role of the speaker.
- He/she presides over the proceedings of the house and ensures that they are conducted in accordance with the rules of procedure. He enforces standing orders in the house.
- The speaker disciplines members of the house who violate standing orders by ordering such them to leave the house or be barred from attending three house consecutive sittings.
- Maintains order during debates and enforces rules which govern conduct of the house. The speaker interprets the rules of the house.
- He/she gives the MPs chance to contribute towards house debates to ensure that the minority are given a fair hearing before the will of the majority prevails.
- He/she represents and protects the authority of the house.
- He/she organizes and determines the business to be conducted in the house by receiving Bills, motions and questions for discussion in the house, and then prepares an order paper.
- He/she adjourns sittings if the house lacks a quorum.
- He/she keeps and maintains the attendance register and grants permission to MPs to be absent from sessions. MPs going out of the country must inform the speaker of their absence from Kenya.
- He/she heads the National Assembly department and takes charge of its general administration and welfare. He/she is responsible for preserving dignity and order and for the comfort and convenience of the members and staff within parliament buildings.
- He/she chairs the speaker’s committee, the committee of powers and Privileges and the standing Order Committee.
- The speaker issues orders and makes rules for the regulation of visitors to parliament and represent parliament in its relations with foreign countries.
- The speaker chairs the branches of the commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Union of African Parliaments. He/she represents Parliament at the commonwealth speaker’s conference.
- He/she declares parliamentary seats vacant and issues writs for general elections and by-elections.
- He/she receives and accepts letters of resignation from members of parliament.
- He/she swears in members of parliament before participating in the House deliberations.
- He, summons parliament to a new when parliamentarians are on recess.
- As part of parliament officers, there is the leader of the majority party and leader of minority party.
- The majority party leader is the person who is the leader in the national assembly of the largest party or coalition of parties.
- The minority party leader is the person who is the leader in the national assembly of the second largest party or coalition of parties.
Role of party leaders.
- They promote and uphold national unity through party activities.
- They enforce adherence to principles of good governance, democracy and upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms and gender equality and equity.
- The leaders work to advance the goals of the party and ensure their programme is carried out to the satisfaction of the party.
- The leader of the majority party has to ensure and maintain support for legislation.
- The leader of the minority party has to protect the rights of the minority.
- The leader of the majority party has to ensure accountability and transparency in the party. And the government.
Functions of parliament in Kenya.
- The elected members of parliament Represents the will of the people, and exercises their sovereignty.
- Parliament considers and passes amendments to the Constitution
- It has powers to alter county boundaries as provided for in the Constitution.
- Parliament has the duty to protect the Constitution and promote the democratic governance of the Republic.
- Parliament is the sole body that has the power to make provision having the force of law in Kenya
Functions of the National Assembly in Kenya.
- The national assembly represents the will of the people and expresses their sovereignty since it represents people from the 290 constituencies and special interest groups.
- The National Assembly deliberates on and resolves issues of concern to the people in the Constituencies and special interest groups.
- The National Assembly enacts legislation that affect the nation-not the county government. For example the money bill may be introduced only in the national assembly.
- The National Assembly determines the allocation of national revenue between the levels of government/it controls revenue and expenditure in the republic.
- It appropriates funds for expenditure by the national government and other national State organs/ it exercises oversight over national revenue and its expenditure.
- The National Assembly reviews the conduct in office of the President, the Deputy President and other State officers/It may initiate the process of removing them from office.
- The National Assembly approves declarations of war and extensions of states of emergency.
Functions of the Senate in Kenya
- The Senate represents the counties, and serves to protect the interests of the counties and their governments.
- The Senate participates in the law-making function of Parliament by considering, debating and approving Bills concerning counties.
- The Senate determines the allocation of national revenue among counties/It exercises oversight over national revenue allocated to the county governments.
- The Senate participates in the oversight of State officers by considering and determining any resolution to remove the President or Deputy President from office.
The process of law making in Kenya.
This is the process of enacting new laws or amending the existing ones.
The two conditions for the start of a law making process are
- The presence of a speaker or his deputy.
- A quorum of fifty members of the national assembly.
- A quorum of 15 members of the senate.
- A bill is a proposed piece of legislation (law). Bills originate in the National Assembly.
- A Bill not concerning county government is considered only in the National Assembly, and passed in accordance with the Standing Orders of the Assembly.
- A Bill concerning county government may originate in the National Assembly or the Senate, and is passed in accordance with the Standing Orders of the Houses.
a) Public Bill- these deal with matters of public policy that affect all citizens of Kenya. They are also categorized into two;
- Government Bill-introduced by cabinet secretaries.
- Private member’s Bill.-introduced by back-benchers in the national assembly
This a bill that has provisions dealing with taxes, payment of charges by public, appropriation , receipt ,custody or issue of public money, raising or guaranteeing of any loan, its repayment or other matters relating to such monies.
- The government departments and public offices to be affected by a bill consult first before it is drafted. A bill is then drafted by the government draftsman (the parliamentary counsel) in the attorney general’s chambers.
- When the cabinet is satisfied with the draft, it is published in the Kenya gazette at least fourteen days before it is introduced to parliament. The main purpose of this is to give the public chance to view and criticize the Bill. The draft proposal is also presented to parliament to give members chance to research on it on preparation for a debate in the future.
- A Bill is first introduced by any member or committee of the relevant House of Parliament, but a money Bill may be introduced only in the National Assembly.
- Before either House considers a Bill, the Speakers of the National Assembly and Senate jointly resolve any question as to whether it is a Bill concerning counties and, if it is, whether it is a special or an ordinary Bill.
- When any Bill concerning county government has been passed by one House of Parliament, the Speaker of that House refers it to the Speaker of the other House.
- If both Houses pass the Bill in the same form, the Speaker of the House in which the Bill originated shall, within seven days, refer the Bill to the President for assent.
- The National Assembly may amend or veto a special Bill that has been passed by the Senate only by a resolution supported by at least two-thirds of the members of the Assembly.
- Within fourteen days after receipt of a Bill, the President assents to the Bill; or refer the Bill back to Parliament for reconsideration by Parliament, noting any reservations that the President has concerning the Bill.
- Parliament may amend the bill in light of the president’s reservations or pass the bill a second time without amendments.
- If parliament amends the Bill after consideration of the president’s reservations, the speaker must resubmit the bill to the president for assent.
- Parliament could pass the bill without amendments or with amendments that do not fully accommodate the president’s reservations if supported by;
- Two-thirds of the members of the national assembly, and
- Two-thirds of the delegations in the senate, if the bill requires approval of the senate.
- The bill then has to be submitted by the appropriate speaker to the president for assent within seven days.
- If the president fails to assent the bill within seven days, the bill will be considered acted upon and therefore considered null and void.
The process of the bill coming into force as a law.
Sections of it may also be published in the local dailies so as to publicize the law to all residents in the country.
The Act of parliament then comes into force as a law on the fourteenth day after its publication in the Kenya Gazette unless the Act specifies a different date or time when it will come into force. The law then binds everybody in the country.
Special Bills concerning county governments.
Ordinary Bills concerning counties.
A mediation committee refers to a committee comprising equal number of members from both houses appointed by the speaker with the task of formulating a version of the Bill that both Houses could pass.
Both houses will then vote to pass or reject the formulated version. The Bill is considered rejected if the committee fails to reach an agreed version within 30 days.
If the second House passes it in an amended form, the bill must be taken back to the originating house for consideration. If the originating house passes it as amended; it is referred to the president for assent within seven days. If it rejects it, it is referred to the mediation committee.
Meaning of parliamentary supremacy
How parliamentary supremacy is upheld in Kenya.
- It is the only Body that makes and repeals laws. Technically, a constitutional court can overrule an act of parliament, but parliament can change the law to prevent that from happening.
- Parliament can remove the president from office by impeachment. A member of the national assembly, with the support of at least a third of all the members, may move an impeachment motion.
- Parliament through an amendment of the constitution, can limit the powers of the executive. It can also pass a vote of no confidence in the government, compelling the president and his/her cabinet secretaries to resign.
- Cabinet secretaries are accountable to the parliament for their activities in the ministries under their control. They have to answer questions in parliament about their ministries.
- Bills prepared by the cabinet have to be legislated by parliament, which is a law making body.
- Parliament has to approve government expenditure. The Cabinet secretary in charge of Finance annually presents the budget to parliament for approval by MPs. - the public accounts committee scrutinizes government expenditure. The Auditor and controller-General check the expenditure of all ministries and reports to parliament.
Ways in which parliamentary supremacy in Kenya is limited.
- Parliament cannot make laws that contradict traditional customs and practices of the people, unless people want change.
- Parliament cannot pass a law that contradicts the constitution. /the supremacy of the constitution is upheld.
- Increased power of the cabinet can reduce parliament’s authority. If the cabinet is too powerful, it may influence parliamentary decisions.
- The president can limit the supremacy by making independent decisions. For example, the president has emergency powers which sidestep parliamentary supremacy. State of Emergency does not follow parliamentary directions.
- Parliament supremacy can be limited by the application of international laws. Parliament may be forced to ratify a law out of necessity; failure to ratify an international law may invite punitive actions on the country.
- Delegated legislation may also limit its powers, i.e. the operation of the county government by-laws may limit parliamentary supremacy although national legislation prevails over county legislation.
- Referendum may be used to decide important issues as opposed to parliamentary decisions.
Merits of parliamentary supremacy/parliamentary system.
- It increases harmony, since the legislature and the executive work together. This is realized when MPs, who represent the electorate, bring their views to the executive (cabinet secretaries) in the legislature.
- This system allows ordinary citizens to participate in the governing process by electing their representatives to articulate their views on issues of national interest.
- It ensures a responsible and responsive government since the cabinet is controlled by parliament in its actions. Cabinet cannot ignore public opinion, since people choose the MPs. Such could risk a vote of no confidence.
- It instills a sense of responsibility in the executive since cabinet secretaries have to sit and answer questions in the house.
- The system legitimizes actions taken by the government, particularly when such actions originate from recommendations passed by the MPs- the people’s representatives.
- A parliamentary system gives citizens a chance to participate in national political leadership through presenting themselves for election as members of parliament or county assemblies.
- It provides for regular elections, giving the electorate the chance to reject non-performing MPs and elect others who can perform.
- Parliament is a training ground for effective leaders; the system enables Kenyans of ability and experience to prove their worth in parliamentary debates.
Demerits of parliamentary supremacy.
- It only works well where there are two parties; with one ruling while the other in opposition. In a case where there are more than two parties. A coalition government may be formed and this form of government is sometimes weak and unstable. Also where the legislature is dominated by one party, the cabinet tends to be dictatorial.
- Such government may not be effective in times of emergencies. The head of government has to consult with the cabinet and the legislature before acting.
- It weakens the executive. It compels the cabinet secretaries to spend most of their time in parliament instead of dealing with matters of their ministries.
“Terminative Role of Parliament” in Kenya.
Functions of the Parliamentary Service Commission
- The Commission is responsible for providing services and facilities to ensure the efficient and effective functioning of Parliament
- It is responsible for constituting offices in the house.
- It prepares annual estimates of expenditure of the parliamentary service and submitting them to the National Assembly for approval, and exercising budgetary control over the service.
- It is responsible for undertaking, singly or jointly with other relevant organizations, programmes to promote the ideals of parliamentary democracy.
- It performs other functions necessary for the well-being of the members and staff of Parliament; or prescribed by national legislation.