People are reminded not to get distracted by the allures of life but instead focus on impacting society. The rationale is that pleasures and wealth are temporary. This advice came to my mind as I watched the last sitting of the 12th National Assembly last week.
Following the changes to the law, both the National Assembly and the Senate are no longer under the control of the Executive. They do not get prorogued and summoned by the President. In fact, the National Assembly continues to exist in law until a new one is sworn in.
During its last week, the National Assembly increased the debt limits of the country to Sh10 trillion. They also celebrated the outgoing Speaker, Justin Muturi, who served for a total of 10 years.
The question of the debt limit has been controversial. While on the one hand, it enables the executive to raise resources required to run the country, on the other, it is symptomatic of the failures of this Assembly to discharge its constitutional mandate.
One needs to reflect on 2017 when the current MPs were sworn in and interrogate their performance over the ensuing years.
From legislation to representation and then to oversight, I struggled to pick the five most impactful deliverables of this Assembly and came out with a blank.
On Legislation, the latest out of the National Assembly is the ICT Practitioners Bill which seeks to regulate ICT practitioners and whose contents may end up stifling innovation in Kenya. There are too many such laws that this Session has been accused of, including the increase of taxes on fuel prices.
On Oversight, as opposed to being the people’s watchdog, they have invariably put their hands into the cookie jar with accusations of doing business with the same bodies they are supposed to watch over, leading the citizens to ask: Who will bell the cat?
In Representation, the Constituency Development Fund has made representation to be equated to the provision of services in the constituencies by the MPs themselves.
As we get to the elections, it is important that the National Assembly consider developing a summary of their key achievements to enable citizens to judge them and to act as a benchmark for the next session. It will also provide citizens with a document to critique their work.
Importantly, too, as we seek new members of the Assembly, we should challenge them to point out what key achievements they have made in their traditional roles of legislation, oversight, and representation.
This must be the basis for reflecting on them or not and not the normal political rhetoric that they spew at this time. Until we do so, we will continue going down in the quality of legislators and wondering where the problem lies.
Democracy is predicated on checks and balances. The legislative arm is a key cog in that wheel. When it steps out of its core functions and instead focuses only on partisan politics and the next elections, the country suffers.
This is particularly sad when one looks at the annual budgets over the last five years to notice that the Legislature receives the second-highest budgetary allocation after the Executive.
It means, therefore, that the development of the country is hugely compromised when the National Assembly performs as dismally as the current one has.
It is important that the next members to be elected to the National Assembly recognise their primary role.
The media and citizens should also go back to continuously monitoring and publishing annual score cards on the performance of the legislators.
This will put a spotlight on their actions and ensure that the overall deliverable from the august House matches the constitutional powers vested in them and leads to improved democracy and development.