Members of Parliament are likely to meet next week to approve measures announced on Wednesday by President Uhuru Kenyatta to cushion the economy against the adverse effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi said the House leadership will consult on the reopening date.
The Suba South MP said the National Treasury is expected to put together the proposals that need parliamentary approval.
He spoke as MPs who pushed to have the House reconvened immediately suggested an open-air sitting, akin to ones held by courts, and rotational sitting to avoid crowding. They also want members to be tested.
The lawmakers – Godfrey Osotsi (nominated MP, ANC), National Assembly Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali (Mumias East), Senate Deputy Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata (Murang’a) and Senator Samson Cherargei (Nandi) – said Parliament “cannot afford to be helpless” as it is the people’s last line of defence.
“I am proposing that Parliament be convened as soon as possible to deal with this crisis,” Mr Osotsi said.
MPs should also provide oversight on the expenditure of the Sh7.4 billion released by the Central Bank of Kenya and donor funding.
Mr Washiali and Mr Kang’ata said Parliament can be innovative and discharge its duties in the open or online.
“What the two speakers need to do is just to put a gazette notice for an open-air sitting of Parliament just like the Judiciary is doing. Parliament is a key arm of government, especially on financial management, as nothing can be done without its approval. A presidential decree alone is not enough,” Mr Washiali said.
Mr Kang’ata lauded President Kenyatta’s decrees on Wednesday to cushion Kenyans but noted that the proposals need to be anchored in law.
Mr Cherargei said the Senate had a motion to reconvene once a week because most decisions being made by the Executive need the sanction of Parliament.
“For example, legislative proposals made by the President under Article 10 and 118 need public participation to pass it. PAC will take up the oversight and other funds to be channeled to the Kenya Red Cross,” he said.
“We need to have a lockdown bill,” Mr Osotsi pointed out, adding that MPs would also come up with a budget for the stimulus package.
He said lawmakers can organize themselves in shifts so that, at any given time, “we have 50 members in the chambers to transact business on behalf of Kenyans”.
“It is not something unique. Other government departments are operating in shifts. Nothing stops the National Assembly and Senate from doing the same,” Mr Osotsi said.
“If it is the fear of contracting the virus, I propose that MPs be tested,” he said, adding that those who test negative should be allowed to attend sessions in a disinfected chamber and wear protective gear.