Despite a lingering threat of Covid-19 that has seen Parliament cut numbers within its precincts and changed Standing Orders to permit virtual sessions, Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani will next Thursday read his first Budget Statement from the floor of the National Assembly.
Speaker Justin Muturi on Wednesday said that he had approved Mr Yatani’s request to read the 2020/21 Budget from Parliament Buildings in a session to be attended by less than 50 lawmakers.
Mr Muturi, however, said that only the House leadership, members of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, chairpersons of departmental committees and other select committees will be allowed in the chamber with the rest sitting in designated areas.
This will be the first time in the country’s history that lawmakers have been locked out of the House on the Budget Day due to restrictions and health directives to curb the spread of the respiratory disease.
“I wish to inform the House that I have received a letter from the Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury, requesting to make public pronouncements on the Budget highlights and revenue raising,” Mr Muturi said in a statement. This means that Mr Yatani, just like 13 ministers who have held the position before him, including President Uhuru Kenyatta, will preserve the tradition.
Months after passage of the 2010 Constitution that effectively dimmed the traditional aura of Budget Speech, Mr Kenyatta fought successfully to read the first Budget Statement from the floor of the House on June 9, 2011.
He convinced Speaker Kenneth Marende that reading the “Statement” on the appointed date and time would enable Kenya to fulfill a regional commitment of delivering such speeches at the same time as Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
Two years after that the tradition was to come under sharp focus when Henry Rotich became the first non-MP holder of the treasury docket.
The government side had to lobby ahead of the 2013 Budget Day to have Mr Rotich, a Cabinet Secretary, read the Budget Statement from the floor of the House.
It remains to be seen whether the whole Budget Day tradition, that includes posing outside Treasury building with the iconic briefcase for photos, before heading to Parliament to read the spending plans will apply for Mr Yatani.