Female legislators have come out strongly to oppose a Bill that seeks to scrap positions of women as provided for in the constitution in order to reduce the huge public sector wage bill.
The Constitutional Amendment Bill which aims to reduce the membership of the National Assembly and the Senate was proposed by Mwingi Central MP Joe Mutambo and the Bill also proposes to have the positions of 47 women representatives and 16 women nominated to the Senate scrapped off together with Article 81 (b) of the Constitution which provides for the one-third gender rule.
In a similar bid, Ainamoi Member of Parliament, Benjamin Langat has also introduced a motion to scrap the women representatives’ seat in order to reduce the soaring wage bill. The Bill also seeks to scrap seats for nominated leaders to the senate, county assembly and women representatives as a cost cutting measure to reduce to soaring government wage bill. The Two Bills are before the National Assembly
The women leaders argue that the move is aimed at crippling devolution and women empowerment. This comes off the back of another move in parliament that significantly downgraded women’s power in marital affairs – read ‘Marriage bill amendments seem to be hugely favourable to men’. The Bill, critics say, is in breach of the Constitution because the one-third gender rule will not be met in counties.
Nairobi Women Representative, Rachael Shebesh, is among the scores of Women Reps who have castigated Langat for passing the motion arguing that it’s ill informed as their presence in parliament and that of nominated members, is a constitutional provision.
“Scrapping the seats will not lower the skyrocketing wage bill, the solution to the country’s ailing economy is to deal with corruption and wastage in government,” said Joyce Lay (Women representative, Taita Taveta).
This suggestion by Joyce Lay echoes what was said by the country’s Auditor-General. Auditor-General, Edward Ouko, said that up to 30% of government spending is wasted.
MCA’S CRITICISE BILL
Members of the County Assemblies (MCAs), who also stand to lose out if Mutambo’s Bill is passed as it also seeks to set the number of MCA’s at a maximum of 290 down from the current 1,450 elected MCAs, have criticized the Bill vehemently and urged the government to protect devolution for the sake of development as the Bill aims to cripple devolution.
The MCA’s have also urged the president to stand his ground on the matter.
According to article 255 of Constitution, a proposed amendment such as Mutambo’s Bill must be enacted in accordance with article 256 0r 257 which provide for amendments to be made either through a referendum, parliamentary initiative or popular initiative, depending on the areas the rectifications fall under.
Going by the popular initiative, an amendment may be proposed by acquiring one million signatures of registered voters.
In the Bill, Mutambo is also seeking to reduce the number of constituencies to 141 from the current 290 and also have the number of counties reduced from 47 to 10 namely; Coast, Upper eastern, Lower eastern, Central, Nairobi, North Rift Valley, South Rift Valley, Nyanza, Western and North Eastern.