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Senators call for joint sitting during reading of budget speech

Senators have defended themselves against accusations that they boycotted the budget speech delivered Thursday by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich.

Led by Senators Mutula Kilonzo Junior (Makueni) and Dr Boni Khalwale (Kakamega), the legislators said it is demeaning that they be required to sit in the public or speaker’s gallery when the budget is being read.

They said Parliament’s rules of procedure need to be changed to allow for a joint sitting whenever the budget is being presented just as it happens when the President is delivering the State of the Nation address.

“We need to re-look the legal provisions and the standing orders to provide for a joint sitting. Budget making involves both Houses of Parliament and senators should not sit in the public gallery,” said Mr Kilonzo Jr.

PUBLIC GALLERY

He said senators will have relegated their roles in the budget making process if they accept to monitor a process they have participated in from the public gallery.

The lawmakers wondered how the 67 members of the Senate and the Senate Speaker could have fitted in the public and Speaker’s gallery, besides cabinet secretaries, diplomats and other invited guests.

DEMEANING

“Senators can’t sit as guests of the Speaker. It is demeaning to the institution,” Mr Kilonzo Jr. added.

Dr Khalwale said senators are not under any obligation to attend such an event and many choose to concentrate on other important matters instead of “struggling” for space in the galleries.

“Attending by senators is optional. This is because the function of budget under the Constitution is done by the National Assembly,” Dr Khalwale said.

But, even as the senators stayed away, most of the seats in the National Assembly remained unoccupied as MPs stayed away.

Most of them are busy campaigning ahead of the party primaries and general election scheduled for August 8.

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