Why Kenyan Lawmakers Need Sufficient Professional Qualifications

By George Gĩthĩnji Last updated on
Why Kenyan Lawmakers Need Sufficient Professional Qualifications

Kenyan lawmakers need to have sufficient professional qualifications. This should happen as we head to future elections.

Before the 2013 general election, the 10th parliament made some selfish amendments to the election laws. They lowered the academic qualifications for Kenyan lawmakers seeking the Parliamentary and County Assembly seats.

Voters elected MPs and the Ward Representatives without a university degree. The MPs were Senators, MPs representing the Constituencies and Women Representatives.

They did not lower the bar for the President, Deputy President, Governors, and Deputy Governors. The law still required the aspirants for these positions to have a university degree to qualify for election.

The presidency and the gubernatorial seats are executive positions. People consider these positions as powerful and managerial. Probably, that is why the MPs refused to drop the minimum academic qualifications for those positions.

Lowering academic qualifications for Kenyan lawmakers was unwise

The move to lower academic qualifications for the Kenyan lawmakers was unwise. It has affected both levels of government. The biggest culprits are the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs).

The MCAs face reproach for being incapable of formulating formidable county legislation. They cannot initiate debates, motions or pass laws that are of good quality and that transcend legal scrutiny.

MCAs also engage in constant warfare with the County Executive Committee Members, especially County Governors. They have constantly held the governors at ransom. They even threaten them with impeachment if they refuse to yield to their demands.

The result has been unrestricted and unmerited benefits for the MCAs. They earn dubious foreign travel packages and sitting allowances. They even contravene personal allowances limit set by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).

Parliament also has its fair share of tribulations. They are often about supremacy wars between the National Assembly and the Senate. The National Assembly has constantly overlooked the Senate in the process of making laws. Yet, both chambers of parliament ought to work together. They should conduct their business in mutual consultation and cooperation.

The National Assembly has become a den of corruption and political shenanigans. The 11th Parliament is full of greed and impunity.

The Senate itself has not satisfactorily done its job well to protect the counties. It does not comprehensively champion the interests of the counties. The Senators fight and discredit the governors rather than engage them proactively. The Senate has failed to facilitate the growth and capacity for the counties.

Influence of ample professional qualifications on Kenyan lawmakers

Professional qualifications for the Kenyan lawmakers weigh heavily on the quality of their output. They determine if the laws and policies both levels of government make are sufficient and beyond scrutiny.

On oversight, Parliament and County Assemblies have become rubber stamps for the Executive. They do not critically scrutinize policy issues generated by the Executive. They only pass the laws to appease the executive arms of their governments.

Nonetheless, IEBC is serious about professional and academic qualifications for Kenya lawmakers. It proposed all MPs in the 2017 general elections to have a university degree. It also wants all MCAs to have achieved the same by the year 2022.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) hoped to achieve this through some amendments to the Elections Act.  IEBC sent the amendments to the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee.

IEBC maintains that those amendments will ensure Kenya gets “quality leadership” in the 2017 general elections.

These proposals will kick-start the process of improving the quality of leadership in parliament and the county assemblies.

Parliament needs to ensure that Kenyan lawmakers have sufficient professional and academic qualifications. We need elected representatives with professional knowledge and experience.We should find a way to strike a balance between professional and academic qualifications. Academic qualifications should not be solely about university degrees.

However, having ample academic qualifications will not necessarily translate to professionalism. Neither will it guarantee results that are above board. Despite that, it will ensure that Kenyan lawmakers have the requisite capabilities required to hold public office.

George Gĩthĩnji is a political and social commentator. Twitter @EpikKenyan
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