Speaker Cautions Committees As They Resume Inquiry on the Proposed KAA/KQ Commercial Arrangement
The Speaker of the National Assembly, The Hon Justin Muturi last evening allowed the Public Investments Committee and the Departmental Committee on Transport, Public Works and Housing to resume their separate examination of the proposed Privately Initiated Proposal (PIIP) by Kenya Airways, but not before cautioning the two Committees that in examining the investment proposal, they must be conscious that the arrangement is still at its infancy. He further called for sobriety among Members of the National Assembly when considering the proposal.
“All of us must uphold high standards, be mindful of the strategic interests of the nation and the welfare of present and future generations. This behooves all of us to exercise sobriety, patriotism and reasonable confidentiality as servants who ‘have been called to the performance of important trusts in this Republic”, Speaker Muturi observed.
The Speaker, in a 24-page Communication also guided the House on the Mandate of Audit Committees vis-à-vis that of Departmental Committees, and on the place of Progress Reports in Inquiry Processes. The ruling is now expected to have far reaching consequences on Committee audit inquiries going forward. He ruled out debate on the progress report fn the PIC which was asking the National Assembly to stop the transaction, citing the established parliamentary practice that prohibit debating interim reports by way of motions. He however ruled that, on Tuesday next week, he will allow the Chairperson of PIC to brief the House on the interim findings of the Committee and undertook to allow comments from other Members on the matter.
The Speaker further expressed himself on the parameters for Special Audits as provided for by law. To stem subjective and casual demands for special audits, he guided Committees wishing to request the Auditor General to carry out a special audit on a State Corporation or a government agency henceforth state how the matter came before them and if there exists any preliminary information of evidence adduced before the Committee to justify the request. Further, he ruled that a Committee seeking for a special audit would have to confirm the absence of any other audit report on the same matter while describing the nature of the audit and stating the preferred timeline.
The Speaker was however quick to clarify that Parliament has no mandate to order or compel the Auditor General to carry out a specialized audit. Article 229 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, establishes the office of the Auditor General as an independent office subject only to the constitution and law and not subject to direction or control from any person or authority.
This much awaited Communication was drawn in response to objections raised by the Leader of the Majority Party, who had, rising on a Point of Order, sought the guidance of the Speaker on alleged conflict of mandate between the Public Investments Committee and those of Departmental Committees. He had further sought guidance on the role of the Auditor General in regards to Special Audits. This followed reactions from a section of Members in regards to the Progress Report of the Public Investment Committee on the Inquiry into the Proposed Takeover of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) by Kenya Airways (KQ), which was laid on the table of the House on February 27, 2019.The Speaker had ordered a stay on any on-going inquiries until he had provided guidance on the same.
The Speaker further seized the opportunity to once again spell out the delineation of the mandates of House watchdog Committees; the Public Investments Committee and the Public Accounts Committee vis-a-vis that of Departmental Committees. He guided that Investigatory Committees are not to delve into the day to day running of state corporations. He further cautioned Departmental Committees against encroaching the province of the former except for matters contemplated by the Standing Orders.
With regards to the proposed arrangement between Kenya Airports Authority and Kenya Airways, the Speaker noted that Parliament’s involvement in the proposal cannot be overlooked, but since the proposal was at infancy stage, restraint and caution by Parliament is necessary so as not to become prejudiced should the House be called upon to make legislative interventions necessary to push the process forward, at a later stage.
He ruled that the Commercial arrangement between KAA and KQ is a privately initiated Investment proposal, adding that it was still at the initiation stage, but prescribed that its consideration should be guided by the Public Private Partnership Act, 2013. He further allowed the Leader of the Majority Party to lay the Special Audit Report in regards to the commercial arrangement for scrutiny by the Public Investments Committee. The Departmental Committee on Transport, Public Works and Housing, whose chairperson had earlier on raised concerns on the encroachment of the mandate by the former, will now be allowed to proceed with its inquiry on proposed investment proposal, but shall confine themselves to matters relating to policy, human resource and compliance with due process and the law.
The full speaker’s communication may be downloaded below..