Youthful MPs leave their mark in 11th Parliament

As the 11th Parliament adjourned sine die on Thursday last week, young MPs who defied all odds and got the nod of the people in the 2013 General Election are a happy lot, looking back at their achievements.

The MPs say they have done a lot to improve the lives of the country’s youth. They cite creating the Employment and Procurement Acts and Uwezo Fund as their major achievements..

Upon election, the legislators from across the political divide formed a caucus called Kenya Young Parliamentarians, with nominated MP Johnson Sakaja, 32, as the chairman.

Mr Sakaja, the Jubilee Party Nairobi senatorial candidate in the August 8 General Election, has been credited with championing solutions to the plight of youth, especially by sponsoring a number of Bills with immense benefits to young people.

The nominated MP sponsored the National Employment Authority Bill, the Employment Amendment Bill and the Public Procurement and Disposal (Amendment) Bill, which had a direct impact on the youth.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK

The National Employment Authority Act gave effect to Article 55 (c) and 56 (b) of the Constitution by providing a legal framework for the State to take affirmative measures to ensure youth and marginalised groups access employment and economic empowerment.

It establishes an authority that will assume the functions of the National Employment Bureau, whose mandate is to maintain a database for all jobless youth to facilitate their employment.

Mr Sakaja said his efforts will demand that hiring authorities such as the Public Service Commission first refer to the database before advertising for jobs through the media.

Those aged above 35 will only be considered if the skills and qualifications required are not available in the pool of youth captured in the databank, which will have the particulars of jobseekers, including the county of origin and ethnicity.

The President assented to the Bill in April last year, making it law.

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT

The Public Procurement and Disposal (Amendment) Bill advances the youth’s participation in public procurement in accordance with Article 227 of the Constitution. The article requires State organs and public entities to procure contracts for goods or services under a system that is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective.

“Every part of this country has a jobless corner, and we have seen it,” Mr Sakaja told the House while introducing the Bill for debate. “The biggest threat to this country is actually unemployment.”

“That is the reason some of our youths have decided to take up arms; that is why some of our youths are being radicalised to participate in the al-Shabaab (terrorism) because they really don’t have opportunities.

“That is why this Bill is a priority.”

A LOT

Kiharu MP Irungu Kang’ata, 37, said the young MPs have done a lot for the youth as individuals and also as a caucus.

The lawmaker, who is studying for a PhD at the University of Nairobi, said there is a need to vote in fairly educated young MPs in August who can keep abreast with various legislative issues in Parliament.

“As an individual, I ensured that the CDF Act is amended, pursuant to a court order, to ensure that a section was enacted providing for youth representation in every CDF committee of each constituency,” said Mr Kang’ata. “My constituency was voted the best by the Ministry of Youth Affairs on the use of Uwezo Fund, which mainly targets the youth.”

He added: “The caucus of young parliamentarians is well funded and I urge donors to enhance the support, noting that youth issues are pertinent.”

Mr Kang’ata also initiated the Higher Education Amendment Bill, which compels the Higher Education Loans Board to notify students of the fate of their study loan applications.

NO INTEREST

The MP sponsored the Bill to shield university graduates from paying interest on government loans if they fail to get a job. The Bill, which Parliament passed, also allocates university students two slots on the Helb board to protect their interests.

There has been a sharp rise in enrolment of students in public universities, straining resources at Helb, whose allocation from the National Treasury has been growing at a slower pace.

Students who fail to get jobs will be required under the proposed law to swear affidavits before being granted an interest waiver and exempted from late payment penalties.

Helb loans attract an annual interest at 4 per cent while defaulters face an automatic Sh5,000 cumulative monthly fine.

‘ENHANCED’ BUDGET

Kipipiri MP Samuel Gichigi said: “We have enhanced the budget to the youth sector as we allocated the Gender and Public Service ministry Sh20 billion.

“The Youth Fund and Uwezo Fund have both received sufficient funding from Parliament.”

He, however, condemned those who misused the Youth Fund at the National Youth Service funds.

“We spent a lot of time providing adequate resources to the youth, then other people decide to misuse the money for their own selfish gain,” Mr Gichigi lamented. “That was improper and I condemn it.”

Ugenya MP David Ochieng, 36, the KYPA’s secretary-general, said younger leaders in Parliament add value to issues and need to be supported in their bid to land leadership positions.

“Even though we made it to Parliament as youths, we serve everyone and not just the youth,” said Mr Ochieng’. “That makes the situation more complex — unlike in Uganda and Tanzania, where they have MPs who are elected to only serve interests of youth.

“We have done a lot, especially in the caucus,” said Mr Ochieng’. “We agreed that, despite our political affiliation, we will rally behind one of our own if they sponsor a Bill dealing with youth issues.”

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