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Economy

Parliament changes rules to allow virtual sessions

The outbreak of coronavirus has forced Parliament to amend its rules to allow for virtual sittings of the House and its committees from May 18.
The outbreak of coronavirus has forced Parliament to amend its rules to allow for virtual sittings of the House and its committees from May 18. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The outbreak of coronavirus has forced Parliament to amend its rules to allow for virtual sittings of the House and its committees from May 18.

The National Assembly has amended its Standing Orders to allow MPs to participate in proceedings from the comfort of their homes. The Clerk of the National Assembly will be required to facilitate the participation of MPs in virtual proceedings through standard electronic devices specifically configured for the proceedings.

The House has adopted a hybrid system that combines both physical and virtual sittings which is the preferred option for most Parliaments.

“It is noted that whereas there are Parliaments that have tried fully virtual proceedings, most of the business conducted in such sittings are deliberative rather than substantive/legislative business,” Moses Cheboi, the vice- chairperson of the Procedure and House Rules Committee said.

Speaker Justin Muturi had issued guidelines to ensure MPs observe government directives on social distancing.

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Only 53 MPs are allowed to be in the House at any given time while seven are allowed to sit in committee meetings.

The committees of the House have been using Zoom or video link to conduct meetings. The report allows for introduction of a system of deferred voting on Bills where voting is delayed to a later day but only in instances that the Constitution requires a fixed majority of Members to be present.

The changes to the rules will also empower the Speaker to permit sittings either physically or virtually where the House is partly precluded from conducting physical sittings by exceptional circumstances or virtually where the House is wholly precluded from conducting a physical sitting by an exceptional circumstance.

“The Speaker shall prescribe guidelines governing the conduct of the proceedings, the manner of voting, the conduct of Members during the proceedings, access by members of the public and media, public participation and involvement, etiquette and other matters that may be relevant to the proceedings,” Mr Cheboi said.

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