The Leadership of the National Assembly has hinted at the possibility of allowing lawmakers to hold a fifth sitting every week.
The new proposal – subject to approval by members of the House – is meant to assist MPs in clearing a backlog of pending legislative proposals awaiting consideration.
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Currently, the House typically sits on Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning, and Thursday afternoon.
Speaking during a session to debate the Value Added Tax (Electronic Internet and Digital Market Supply) Regulations, 2023, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Moses Wetang’ula, stated that the House Business Committee had noted a massive backlog of House business awaiting processing.
“In the House Business Committee today, we noted a backlog of Private Members’ business…Motions and Bills numbering in their hundreds are queuing for processing through the House,” Wetang’ula told members.
The House Business Committee is charged with the responsibility to prepare and, if necessary, from time to time, adjust the Parliamentary Calendar with the approval of the House.
The Committee, which comprises the House Leadership and a few members representing both the majority and minority parties, monitors and oversees the House Business and programmes implementation.
As a stop-gap measure, the Speaker told lawmakers that the House Business Committee had resolved that two to three hours would be dedicated to Private Members’ Business after last week’s question time.
He urged those whose business had been pending and had since been scheduled to be available to transact the business.
In the long term, the Speaker hinted that should the backlog persist, the Committee would consider a Thursday morning sitting, subject to Members’ convenience.
Additionally, he said that the lawmakers could be called upon to do longer sittings to process the pending business.
“We are considering, subject to your convenience, that if we continue having a backlog, we may assume introducing a Thursday morning sitting to reduce the piling business.
From next week, we might call upon you to do extra time. We may even consider extending sitting hours by an additional two hours to reduce this backlog”, he told the House.
Ordinarily, the House Business Committee prioritises the processing of government-sponsored Bills. Faced with a similar challenge, the 12th Parliament temporarily introduced a Thursday morning sitting.
In the usual order of House business, this time is reserved for Committee sittings, just as it is the case for Tuesday morning.
A Private Members’ Bill is a legislative proposal initiated by a lawmaker not acting on behalf of the Executive.
Notable successful Private Members’ Bills include the National Youth Employment Authority by now Nairobi governor Johnson Sakaja in the 11th Parliament and the Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2017, sponsored by Martha Wangari, which granted adoptive parents a 3-months leave akin to the maternity leave enjoyed by biological mothers.
Others are the Constituency Development Fund Bill,2003, sponsored by Muriuki Karue, which sought to provide that the government set aside at least 2.5% of its ordinary revenue for disbursement under the CDF program, and the Sexual Offences Bill, 2006 by now Supreme Court Judge, then MP, Njoki Ndung’u.
Senator Danson Mungatana was also the brainchild of the Public Appointments (Parliamentary Approval) Act 2011.