Nairobi Law Monthly - - Contents - Writer is a com­mu­ni­ca­tions prac­ti­tioner; E-mail: pnadupoi@gmail.com

Par­lia­ment’s Rus­sian Roulette with me­dia free­doms must end

Ire­cently had what I want to be­lieve was an in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tion with some­body, an im­por­tant con­stituent from one of the coun­ties – ac­tu­ally, a teacher. I de­scribe the teacher as im­por­tant be­cause of their in­flu­ence; ei­ther to per­suade and/ or dis­suade oth­ers. Teach­ers are opin­ion lead­ers.

My teacher-friend told me how she is im­pressed with her area Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment. Ac­cord­ing to her, un­like the Woman Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, the MP has worked so hard to serve wananchi through var­i­ous “de­vel­op­ment” projects. By virtue of her pro­fes­sion, it did not es­cape her at­ten­tion that the MP gives cash re­wards of up to Sh1 mil­lion to best per­form­ing schools. I asked whether the MP uses his own money and, sur­pris­ingly, the teacher an­swered in the af­fir­ma­tive.

In her own words, “the Woman Rep­re­sen­ta­tive has not made any ef­fort to con­trib­ute to “de­vel­op­ment” in the area, or help lo­cals se­cure em­ploy­ment in the com­pa­nies within the county or in govern­ment.” I was at pains to ex­plain how the MP has a kitty in the name of the Con­stituency De­vel­op­ment Fund, while the Woman Rep­re­sen­ta­tive had none.

By all means, a teacher is a well in­formed per­son, and her as­sess­ment of her political rep­re­sen­ta­tive baf­fled me. Lack of aware­ness on such crit­i­cal mat­ters de­bil­i­tates us from play­ing our civic du­ties ef­fec­tively. I couldn’t help but mull over the predica­ment of the Woman Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, and how peo­ple will judge her per­for­mance not on the ba­sis of her core work, but du­ties that squarely fall un­der other arms of govern­ment.

It is un­for­tu­nate that our political sys­tem is based on a cul­ture where peo­ple ex­pect to see ma­te­rial things – cash hand­outs, phys­i­cal struc­tures, etc. Granted, we can­not dis­miss this con­sid­er­ing there are cur­rently funds set aside (such as the CDF in the case of MPS) for such projects. It is, how­ever, not the core work of th­ese rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Ar­ti­cle 95 (1-3) of the Con­sti­tu­tion is clear on the role of the Na­tional As­sem­bly: to rep­re­sent the peo­ple of the con­stituen­cies and spe­cial in­ter­ests in the Na­tional As­sem­bly; de­lib­er­ate and re­solve is­sues of con­cern to the peo­ple; and en­act leg­is­la­tion and pro­vide over­sight. An MP ac­tu­ally does not need money to sat­isfy th­ese roles. It is pos­si­ble to have an MP who per­forms dis­mally on the func­tions out­lined above and ex­cel­lently in the “de­vel­op­ment” front. It is also likely that those de­vel­op­ment roles may ham­per ef­fec­tive per­for­mance of the core du­ties.

Un­like MPS, women rep­re­sen­ta­tives have not had the lee­way to di­rectly in­flu­ence de­vel­op­ment agenda as they had no spe­cific kitty, a mat­ter that has largely af­fected their vis­i­bil­ity in the de­vel­op­ment front. It is this ob­scu­rity that pro­pelled them to lobby for a fund to bol­ster their pres­ence. In re­sponse to this, the Na­tional Trea­sury set up an Af­fir­ma­tive Ac­tion So­cial De­vel­op­ment Fund (AASDF) with an ini­tial al­lo­ca­tion of Sh2 bil­lion.

Ac­cord­ing to the Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment (Af­fir­ma­tive Ac­tion So­cial De­vel­op­ment Fund) Reg­u­la­tions, 2015, the pur­pose of the AASDF is to com­ple­ment CDF. The Fund will sup­port, in­ter alia, en­hance­ment of ac­cess to fi­nan­cial fa­cil­i­ties for women through a re­volv­ing fund; so­cio-cul­tural de­vel­op­ment and nur­tur­ing of tal­ent for the youth; en­hance­ment of ac­cess to ser­vices for sur­vivors of gen­der-based vi­o­lence, fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion, and early, child and forced mar­riages; and sup­port of af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion groups (out of school youth, or­phans, chil­dren in child-headed home­steads and spe­cial needs chil­dren). The Fund will, in a way, “el­e­vate” women rep­re­sen­ta­tives to the same plat­form as MPS to com­pete for the at­ten­tion of the pub­lic.

Women rep­re­sen­ta­tives are, how­ever, yet to en­joy the fruits of the Fund. The In­sti­tute for So­cial Ac­count­abil­ity (TISA) last year pe­ti­tioned the High Court to de­clare the AASDF Act 2015 un­con­sti­tu­tional. TISA asked the Court to bar the Na­tional Trea­sury Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary from re­leas­ing monies to any in­sti­tu­tion cre­ated un­der the Fund pend­ing the hear­ing and de­ter­mi­na­tion of the ap­pli­ca­tion for ju­di­cial re­view. Crit­ics of AASDF have ar­gued that just like CDF, the Fund goes against the spirit of the Con­sti­tu­tion. In par­tic­u­lar, the Fund is crit­i­cised for fail­ing to re­spect the prin­ci­ple of sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers. The High Court granted TISA’S prayers on De­cem­ber 14, 2015 al­though it re­versed the or­ders on Jan­uary 21, 2016; the mat­ter is yet to be con­cluded.

In the event the women rep­re­sen­ta­tives will even­tu­ally have their way, they will still re­quire time to put struc­tures in place, and un­der­take the nec­es­sary pro­cesses such as pro­cure­ment, be­fore ac­tual im­ple­men­ta­tion com­mences. They will there­fore not have done much be­fore 2017. Their con­stituents, just like my teacher, will put them to task to iden­tify de­vel­op­ment projects they have un­der­taken.

But what we re­ally do need to ask is whether any of th­ese rep­re­sen­ta­tives re­ally need to have a kitty for their im­pact to be felt.


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