Our MPs require a change of attitude

The Tenth Parliament has an opportune moment to pull through radical legislative reforms. It should adopt and implement new proposals on House procedures, which were tabled before the MPs caucus at the weekend by Mwingi South MP David Musila.

The proposals seek to review Standing Orders to raise Parliament’s performance in terms of debates and legislation.

For the record, the proposals are not new. They were discussed extensively last year but were never passed by the Ninth Parliament.

One of the proposals is to increase parliamentary sessions from four to five a week. Besides Wednesday, it is proposed that MPs should also work full day on Thursday.

This is necessary to give them adequate time to debate and enact policies. In fact, the proposal should have provided for six sessions every week, so that MPs work full day from Tuesday to Thursday.

Related to this, the number of vacations and days should be slashed. It does not make sense, for instance, for Parliament to go for a three-month Christmas break when everyone resumes work in January.

Most importantly, it is critical to revisit the broader proposal of a constitutional review to allow Parliament to control its own calendar so that it can effectively plan for its activities.

The number of MPs who constitute a quorum should also be raised. Currently, the quorum is pegged at 30, yet we have a House of 222 MPs. The figure constituting a quorum should be raised proportionately.

House procedures require urgent change to reflect the emerging realities of governance, the economy and technology. Concepts like electronic voting, live media coverage and interrogating the co-ordinator of government affairs (Prime Minister) are essential elements of democracy and good governance.

Even so, the proposed changes will not make a difference if the MPs do not change their ways. The perennial problems of lack of quorum or ministers failing to turn up to answer questions are attitude issues that cannot be eliminated through procedural reforms. It is for the MPs themselves to change their attitudes.

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