MPs listen to Treasury CS Henry Rotich as he reads budget 2017-2018 at Parliament on Thursday 30/03/17. PHOTO: BONIFACE OKENDO
Less than 100 MPs were in the House yesterday when Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich read this year’s budget speech. The House has 349 members.
The low turnout was not surprising as the House has been hit by quorum hitches in recent days, with MPs retreating to their backyards to campaign ahead of the August 8 polls.
It is something even House Speaker Justin Muturi acknowledged when the question was put to him.
“People are busy out there campaigning,” said the Speaker.
Even as MPs left the chamber, it was clear the numbers at the public gallery far outnumbered that of legislators who had made it to Parliament; on a day when their constituents wanted to know if the price of ‘unga’ would come down.
National Assembly’s Leader of Majority Aden Duale (Garissa Town) said under the circumstances, legislators had done their best to make it to Parliament.
“We have done very well. We had 150 members when we started. People are more concerned if they will come back to the 12th Parliament,” said Mr Duale.
So low were the numbers that even for the few times the MPs thumped their feet or laughed, the sounds were so muted in comparison to previous budget days.
To their credit, however, no bell rang to flush out MPs from the bar and the lounge; their favourite hiding spots even when Parliament is discussing serious business, especially dealing with figures.
“Much as we understand they are busy campaigning, they should have been here on a day like this,” said ODM nominated MP Isaac Mwaura.
Other than the usual dignitaries such as diplomats, the gallery had former MPs among them former Kinangop MP Margaret Wanjiru, famous in the 10th Parliament for her ‘prophesies’ that launched her into the public limelight.
The ‘prophetess’ has been fighting for pension for former MPs, and it is possible she was in the House to hear if there was any money set aside for retired legislators.
This being a ‘normal’ sitting of the House stripped of the pomp and colour of the years gone by, there was little ceremony.
Mercifully, someone remembered to invite a choir that belted out beautiful songs.