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By EDITORIAL
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The Senate has made a symbolic move to convene its session out of Nairobi in what is billed as an attempt at connecting with the counties that it serves. Symbolic it is because it gives the physical feeling that senators are ready to work with and for the institutions — counties — that they have been elected to serve. It also gives the sense of being accessible to the people. As to the effectiveness of the move, the jury is still out.

Even so, we must ask if this is better use of the citizens’ money. Having the full House out there with all the support staff is quite an expense. At a time of belt tightening, this runs contrary to the common desire of cutting public expenditure. Unnecessary travel cannot be countenanced.

In their inaugural session, the focus has been on the revised national Budget that has slashed allocations for counties by Sh9 billion, with the concern being that it is a big let-down to the counties, which will have to cut their expenditure accordingly and which, ultimately, translates to poor service delivery to the citizens. The recent budget cuts have been as controversial as they have been emotive. But the signal from the senators is that we have not heard the last of it. That is a subject for another debate.

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For now, the spotlight is on the Senate’s out-of-Nairobi sittings; in particular, the inherent practical value. Working close to the people can be justified on the basis that it gives the senators first-hand experience of what happens at the counties. Even so, that is debatable. Since they represent the counties, the requirement is that they visit their respective regions all the time and, hence, should have a clear understanding of the goings-on there. They do not need to convene a sitting at a county headquarters to understand what’s happening or to connect to the people. The National Assembly, for instance, cannot purport to hold sessions in the constituencies to get a feel what happens there.

For Kenyans, what really matters is the subject and quality of discussions during the sittings; the Bills they pass and the effectiveness of their oversight role. Not where they sit. So, we ask, what would be the difference between sitting out there and holding sessions in the Senate? Will the senators debate any better?

Ordinarily, the Senate grapples with the question of relevance in the legislative set-up. Other than Bills on counties, hardly does it originate laws, which is the function of the National Assembly. It has the burden to prove that it has value in the governance typology, which is why all its activities are thoroughly scrutinised.

We are not convinced that sitting out of Nairobi is beneficial. Senators must give a proper account of themselves.



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