Privatisation Bill moves to crucial stage despite criticism

Despite criticising a law taking powers from Parliament, MPs on Tuesday voted to approve its Second Reading, effectively allowing the controversial Bill to go to the next, and last stage.

The Privatisation (Amendment) Bill had come under heavy criticism from both Jubilee and Opposition lawmakers when its Second Reading started last Thursday evening.

The debate at that stage ended but without 50 MPs in the House to form the quorum required to conduct business, the vote on the Second Reading wasn’t taken.

It was then scheduled for Tuesday as the first substantive motion, and that was instantly approved.

Interestingly, this happened exactly as predicted by Kibra MP Ken Okoth, who was among the Bill’s opponents on the floor on Thursday.

“What I worry about the process is if this debate ends today (Tuesday) and the question is not put and it comes next week as the first item on the Order Paper as happened today … The people who were not there yesterday when we debated this might use tyranny of numbers regardless of the robust debate we have here and go ahead to pass it through Second Reading,” he said last Thursday.

After the approval of the Second Reading, Opposition Deputy Whip Chris Wamalwa later told journalists: “There is no problem. We’ll make the amendments at the Third Reading.”

The Bill was published in June last year and is sponsored by Majority Leader Aden Duale on behalf of the government.

Mr Duale explained its intention to MPs at the start of its Second Reading and stressed the usefulness of the provisions to have the members of the Privatisation Commission recruited competitively.

He said while the commissioners’ terms would be liable for extension, this would be subject to a review of their performance.

The Bill gives the Cabinet responsibility over the approval of privatisation proposals, taking it away from Parliament.

On Thursday, MPs criticised it, with Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno a former minister, leading MPs who criticised the proposed law and the timing of its Second Reading.

“There is nothing good about this law. We are entrenching tribalism and we are entrenching corruption. This law should be rejected before it goes any farther,” said Mr Otieno.

Mr Okoth asked his colleagues to be vigilant to be vigilant as the vote for the Bill could be placed as the first agenda on a day when they wouldn’t have the time to ask questions.
Bura MP Ali Wario said the proposed change would make it easier for individuals eager to get hold of government agencies. He said Kenya had learnt enough lessons from the manner in which the railway was privatised.

Muhoroni MP Onyango Koyoo said by leaving Parliament out of the privatisation process, it would be left to the Cabinet Secretary responsible for the entity being privatised and its buyers to negotiate.

“I stand to oppose this because I see the sole intention of this amendment is to facilitate theft of the sugar industry,” said Mr Koyoo.

He said the likely target of those behind the Bill is Chemelil and Muhoroni factories in his constituency.

“We should not be used to pass a bad thing. This Parliament is a laughing stock outside there. People out there are wondering how we can pass a Bill here on anti-hopping, that we cannot amend even a comma. Two days later we are told there is something wrong, we are hounded here and surrounded by policemen and it is changed,” said Mr Koyoo.

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