Politics and policy
New laws open up security agencies to House scrutiny
Posted Wednesday, August 29 2012 at 19:54
- Under the NIS Act assented to on Monday, MPs will set up a joint committee on intelligence with oversight over defence spending.
- Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee chairman Mohamed Abdikadir said it was a constitutional requirement that any public institution spends money with the approval of Parliament.
The operations of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and the National Intelligence Service (NIS) will now be subjected to parliamentary oversight after President Mwai Kibaki assented to laws opening up the security agencies to scrutiny.
MPs now have the power to check the budgetary spending of the NIS and vet its next director-general. Parliament is also empowered to examine spending by the KDF.
Under the NIS Act assented to on Monday, MPs will set up a joint committee on intelligence with oversight over defence spending.
Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee chairman Mohamed Abdikadir said it was a constitutional requirement that any public institution spends money with the approval of Parliament.
“If the budget for State House comes through Parliament just like any other ministry, what is so special about defence forces budgets?” he asked.
Mr Abdikadir added that Parliament is the final organ to declare war and has the cardinal duty to allocate resources based on what is being funded.
“The House declares war and has to know the finer details of the same,” he said.
According to the Mandera Central MP, there are instances when the House or committees can choose to hold sessions in camera for security reasons.
The service has been opaque in tendering for military equipment and services, a secrecy largely blamed for the Anglo Leasing scandal which could have cost the taxpayer more than Sh40 billion through several defence-related procurement.
Article 289 (2) of KDF Act provides that the defence forces shall submit the annual accounts report to the President and MPs within three months after the end of the financial year to which it relates.
The members of the relevant parliamentary committee will upon assuming office be required to subscribe to an oath of office where they will not be allowed to disclose sensitive information presented to it by defence forces officers to the public.
This means that the members of the committee will largely operate in camera since defence spending is considered a top security matter.
The House team will be required to scrutinise the KDF and NIS budgets but will not review the intelligence gathering and assessment priorities of the agencies.
It will also review the administration and expenditure of the defence forces.
At present, the parliamentary Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations and that of Administration and National Security handle security matters.
MPs pushed through amendments during a special House session last Friday to open up the security agencies’ spending for scrutiny.