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How MPs fooled Kenyans on fuel tax vote

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By DAVID MWERE
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MPs may have tricked Kenyans into believing that they were on their side when they met for a special sitting on Tuesday and Thursday to consider President Uhuru Kenyatta’s memorandum on the Finance Bill 2018.

A section of the MPs had planned to veto President Kenyatta’s reservations on the bill because it was going to make the cost of life unbearable if passed in the form and text it was in.

They cited the President’s proposal of eight percent VAT on petroleum products, the 1.5 percent levy on housing fund as well as the extra Sh18 for every litre of Kerosene bought among others.

In so doing, they lobbied a good number to shoot down the president’s views ahead of the big day. Just like amending the Constitution, it requires two-thirds or at least 233 of the 349 MPs in the House to veto the president’s reservations on a bill.

Although the MPs had been lobbied by their respective party leaders to pass the president’s proposals, they were in a Catch-22 situation.

They were to appease their party leaders, President Uhuru Kenyatta, who held a Jubilee parliamentary group meeting at State House, Nairobi on Tuesday and National Super Alliance (Nasa) leader Mr Raila Odinga.

Mr Odinga had chaired the Nasa parliamentary group at Orange House on the same day President Kenyatta did at State House. However, the tricky part was that they were to appease their party bosses without betraying the public.

But how possible could this have happened? Unbeknown to the public, the MPs may have just killed two birds with a stone.

On Thursday afternoon, after approving the supplementary budget the MPs retreated to the committee of the Whole House to consider the memorandum.

Narok Woman Representative Soipan Tuya, also a member of the Committee of Chairpersons, was the chair of the committee for the afternoon.

When Ms Tuya put the clause on the eight percent VAT on fuel products to vote, she declared the “ayes” had won.

Those in opposition protested and stood up as the House almost degenerated into chaos.

According to Article 115 of the Constitution, those voting “nays” have the obligation to confirm that they have the requisite two-thirds majority before the presiding chair calls for a division.

Though leader of majority Aden Duale led some members out of the chamber, a claim he confirmed saying it was meant to deny the others the numbers, it is a trick that even the opposition previously employed to have their way.

However, under the same provision and Article 122, those voting “ayes” just need to be 26, being the simple majority.

In a voice vote, the only legally known and procedurally simple process is to rule that the “ayes” have it like Ms Tuya did so that the “nays” can vote electronically or by way of being counted, which is called roll call vote so that their number of 233 is confirmed.

The roll call vote is quite popular in the US congress.

When Ms Tuya called for a roll call, the MPs would not listen with Isiolo Woman Representative Rehema Dida Jaldesa captured on the table microphone saying that they did not want the roll call because it would be known which side they were leaning on.

She would also be heard advising Mandera North MP Bashir Abdullahi against the roll call vote.

One of the MPs, who was against the memorandum blatantly told a parliamentary orderly that all they wanted was to be allowed to shout, as they did not have time for a roll call.

The MPs opposed to the memo were clever. They did not agree to do a confirmation vote since it produces a physical list showing who voted which way (this is not possible in a voice vote), which they had just done.

The begging questions are: if indeed they were committed to a public course as they claimed, why did they decline to be counted?

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Why did they decline to do either electronic or roll call vote? This would have shown who was in the House at the time.

Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang’, during his time as a member of the Chairperson of Committees in the last parliament, previously the speaker’s panel, was a stickler of the House rules and always insisted on following procedure.

What made him change this time? Our attempts to get his comment failed, as he did not respond to our queries.  

If it was an amendment of the Constitution, which also requires at least two-thirds majority, would it have been amended by a voice vote?

The procedure applied on Thursday by Ms Tuya has existed since 1963 and was applied at least 12 times in the last parliament.

Why the MPs insisted on deviating this time round remains a question to be answered another day as well as their persistent desire to conceal any information showing which way they voted.

On the question of 352 MPs in the House, which forced Speaker Justin Muturi back to the House to seek clarification, the electronic system is configured to show a default total number of 352 persons before any roll call is undertaken.

The 352 number is the default number of persons that the system has allowed to speak, the 349 MPs plus the three table clerks (administrators).

However, it automatically clears itself each time a roll call is taken before any electronic voting.

On Thursday, the MPs declined the roll call, which happens by way of all members removing their logged in cards and inserting them again to commence the voting.

When Ms Tuya called for them to log out their cards several times, they refused. This confirms that there was neither a roll call nor an electronic vote.

On Tuesday, Mr Muturi had issued a communication on whether the President should be allowed to participate in law making in line with Article 115 of the Constitution after Mathare MP Anthony Oluoch raised the issue.

Mr Muturi ruled that the two-thirds voting threshold only becomes applicable if it intends to negate or amend the proposed text in respect of the President’s reservations on a bill he has rejected, in this case the Finance Bill.

“It is not a requirement that affects the quorum of the House at the commencement or consideration of the reservations,” Mr Muturi said.

In terms of the procedure to be adopted in considering the reservations, all questions for decision in the House are put in the positive.

According to Mr Muturi, at that point, the provisions of Article 122 (1) of the Constitution requiring a simple majority of members (26) on a vote shall apply.

The chairperson of the Committee of the whole House will thereupon announce the result of the voice vote, which she did.

It is expected that any member intending to reject the proposed text of the reservation or a member intending to amend the clause would rise to cause a Division as contemplated by Standing Order 72(1) (b).

The same is also provided for in Standing Order 72 on the electronic voting.

If at least 30 MPs rise to claim a Division, a Division Bell is rung for 10 minutes and a further five minutes if by the close of the first duration, the requisite numbers would not have been achieved.

 If the number is confirmed, the House shall then proceed to an electronic vote.

Where there are less than 233 MPs in the House despite the ringing of the Division Bell, those claiming a Division will have failed to marshal the numbers required under Article 115(4)(a) of the Constitution and therefore uphold the earlier decision made by way of a voice vote.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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