15 May 2019

Kenya: Duale Furious as Murkomen Questions Passing of Health Laws

National Assembly majority leader Aden Duale has told off his Senate counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen for saying the Health Laws (Amendment) Bill was passed in an unprocedural manner.

President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the bill into law on Monday in the presence of leaders including Mr Murkomen, the Senator of Elgeyo Marakwet County.

Via Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, however, Mr Murkomen claimed the Senate was not involved so the process was not in line with procedure.

Regarding his presence at State House during the signing, Mr Murkomen claimed he had been invited to witness the assenting of the Assumption of the Office of County Governor Bill.

He said he realised too late that Mr Duale was also present "on behalf of the National Assembly to witness the signing of some Health Laws (Amendment) Bill".

Mr Murkomen accused Mr Duale of misleading the President into approving a bill that he insisted had not gone through the Senate.

'FALSEHOODS'

It did not take Mr Duale long to call out Mr Murkomen "for shaming falsehoods" and remind him that his behaviour is "pure hypocrisy, which requires to be treated with the contempt it deserves."

"To my utter shock the leader of the majority party of the Senate has been reported arguing that the Act was passed unprocedurally as it was never considered by the Senate as required by the Constitution," Mr Duale, the Garissa Township MP, said.

He continued, "Never mind that yesterday the media was awash with pictures of Senator Murkomen standing next to the President assenting to the same bill he is now challenging."

Mr Duale termed as "worrying", claims by Mr Murkomen that the law cannot be applied anywhere because it did not "go through the required mechanism of passing a law".

While noting the senator is an advocate of the High Court, he further questioned his fidelity to article 103 (3) of the Constitution, which says that only the two Speakers of Parliament can resolve the question of the nature of a bill.

"That Senator Murkomen does not know this is not only [being] economical with truth but also [being] generous with falsehoods. It is even sad that he does not seem to remember, or rather is faking amnesia on, the requirements of Article 110 (3) of the Constitution," Mr Duale said.

MURKOMEN'S VIEW

But according to Mr Murkomen, health is a devolved function so any alteration of existing legal institutions cannot go without the concurrence of the Senate.

"In matters health, on which national and county governments have concurrent jurisdiction, the honest truth is that any member of the public being pushed to apply that law must not obey it," he said.

"If they feel they are being pushed to apply it, they should go to the High Court to declare the law null and void so the process begins afresh; where the law will come to both Houses of Parliament," added the lawmaker, who claims the President ignored his personal advice.

AMENDMENTS

The law alters various pieces of existing laws - the Pharmacy and Poisons Act, the Nutritionists and Dieticians Act, Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act, Nurses Act, Kenya Medical Training College Act and Kenya Medical Supplies Authority Act.

Contrary to claims by Murkomen that the amended law concern counties, Mr Duale explained that it only touches on matters of health policy, reconstitution of boards and regulation of health professions.

These are national government functions in line with the fourth schedule of the Constitution.

Article 110 of the Constitution provides that the Senate only considers bills concerning county governments.

The bill was passed by the National Assembly in December 2018 but was returned with a presidential memorandum detailing areas that needed further consideration by the House.

The National Assembly then considered the reservations and approved the bill, fully accommodating the President's reservations, on February 28, 2019.

RIVALRY

It is not clear why Mr Murkomen waited until the bill was signed to raise concerns on its nature.

It is also not clear whether he consulted Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, who has not faulted the signing of the bill.

"The bill was passed last year ...why raise issues on the bill five months later? Only he can answer these questions but whatever his reasoning is, one thing is certain - he has chosen to feign ignorance of the provisions of the Constitution. For what reasons? Only he knows," Mr Duale said.

The disagreement comes as the on and off rivalry over the jurisdictions of the two Houses in the passing of bills heats up.

During the National Assembly retreat in Mombasa in April, members accused their Senate counterparts of duplicating work and causing wastage of public resources.

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