A new team in the 13th Parliament has been set up to handle critical issues raised by Kenyans after MPs failed to act on public petitions, which lapsed.
The Select Committee on Public Petitions is expected to deal with the huge number of public petitions that Parliament receives from citizens, professionals and civil society groups.
Kenyans presented more than 315 petitions to the National Assembly and 145 to the Senate during the five-year term of the 12th Parliament, which were conveyed through MPs or reported by the Speaker to the Parliament.
The Constitution accords every person a right to petition MPs on any matter within its authority including petitioning the House to enact, amend or even repeal legislation.
Petitions to the National Assembly or the Senate are submitted to the clerk of the relevant House by the petitioner or presented by a member of either House on behalf of a petitioner, with the consent of the relevant Speaker.
Public petitions received through MPs or the Speaker are referred to the relevant departmental committees for processing leading to a lack of attention due to work overload.
Some of the diverse and key issues raised by citizens to Parliament include the drastic increase in the price of petroleum and petroleum products and the proposed demolition of Seefar Apartments in Nairobi County.
The House was also bombarded with petitions on instances of insecurity in various parts of the country, classification of hardship areas for public servants and resettlement of citizens affected by road works or projects by State agencies and parastatals such as Ketraco and KenGen.
Land issues relating to the dispossession of ancestral land by the British colonialists, displacement due to mining activities, non-issuance of title deeds and allotment letters and evictions also end up in Parliament.
Several other petitions filed by Kenyans include the one on increase in food and animal feed prices, compensation to victims of disasters, waiver of VAT on textbooks, journals and periodicals and requests for amendments to the Constitution and existing Acts such as the Advocates Act and the Elections Act.
“Out of 29 petitions that had been referred to the committee, 13 had been concluded and 16 had lapsed,” an exit report of the committee on Environment and Natural Resources states.
An analysis of the report shows that a majority of the lapsed petitions touched on variations of forest boundaries in Ngong forest, Marsabit forest, and the degazettement of Kapolet forest in Cherangany, Kodera in Kasipul constituencies.
The new Public Petitions Committee will be compelled to dispense with the petitions within three months of receipt.