Parliamentary committees are free to choose whether Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS) can appear before them as ministry representatives.
The National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi ruled that the committees are at liberty to determine, on case by case basis, whether it is the Cabinet Secretary (CS), the CAS, or the Principal Secretary is to appear before them to answer questions filed by MPs.
“This should take into account the weight of the matters contained in the questions before the committee, Mr Muturi ruled last week.
This puts to rest the long standing tussle between MPs and the Executive over the role of CASs. MPs have all along maintained that CASs occupy informal positions and as such are unfit to represent and answer questions on behalf of their CSs.
In January last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the creation of CAS in every ministry, raising questions as to who between the administrators and Principal Secretaries are next to CSs in the order of seniority.
In his ruling, however, Mr Muturi directed that CSs are expected to and must appear before committees of the House as and when required to do so to answer questions.
“At the same time, CAS remain admitted to committees of this House for purposes of answering questions, as long as they are able to commit their respective state departments to the undertakings, commitments and assurances they may have to make in the course of responding to questions before Committees,” he said.
He said whenever a Cabinet Secretary authorises a CAS to respond to questions before committees, the CS shall take full responsibility of responses transmitted to the National Assembly.
Mr Muturi said the President through Executive Order No. 1 of 2018 on the Organisation of Government communicated to Parliament the manner in which he had decided to reorganise his government.
The Executive Order additionally identified the principal persons charged with the overall direction of the various ministries, he said.
The ruling followed Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa’s request for the Speakers ruling on the admissibility of answers to Parliamentary questions from the Executive given by the CAS.
Mr Barasa stormed out of a meeting where Health CAS Rashid Aman was to respond to his question claiming CASs had no legal or constitutional mandate to respond to issues raised by committees.
Mr Muturi cited provisions of Article 153(3) and (4) of the Constitution that provides that a Cabinet Secretary shall appear before a committee of the National Assembly, or the Senate, when required by the committee, and answer any question concerning a matter for they are responsible.
The section also compels CS’s to provide Parliament with full and regular reports concerning matters under their control.
Mr Muturi said chairpersons of Committees of the House have faced challenges since are not able to comprehensively provide answers or make undertakings on behalf of the Executive, which the House is constitutionally expected to oversight.