Senate bans physical committee meetings to stop Covid-19 - Beaking Kenya News

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Saturday, 1 August 2020

Senate bans physical committee meetings to stop Covid-19

Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka

No senator will set foot in Parliament to attend committee meetings from next week as the Senate leadership moves to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The announcement comes days after the National Assembly partially locked down its activities amid fears of ballooning cases of MPs and parliamentary staff contracting the contagious virus.

Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka said all physical committee meetings have been suspended for a month to check the spread of the contagion.

“We had a liaison committee meeting, which has all the chairpersons of committees, and agreed that all meetings should be held virtually,” Lusaka said.

The speaker said the situation will be reviewed after one month where critical committees such as the County Public Accounts and Investments Committee (CPAIC) may be allowed to hold physical meetings on a case by case basis.

“But for CPAIC, it is important that they hold physical meeting because of the huge documents that they go through. But in the meeting, we agreed that we suspend all physical meetings for one month and review the situation after,” he said.

CPAIC is a watchdog committee that oversights expenditure of billions of shillings sent to the counties from the national government.

The panel interrogates the county chiefs to account for the disbursements.

Last week, the Council of Governors wrote to the Speaker urging the Senate to use virtual meetings to avoid exposing them to coronavirus.

“We call upon the Speaker of the Senate to emulate the example of the National Assembly, which has since dispensed with physical appearance. I urge all the governors to appear virtually as their health comes first,” CoG chairman Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) said.

The Speaker told the Star on the phone that the governors’ appeal had merit as some of the county chiefs were in the vulnerable group in terms of age or have other medical conditions.

“After one month, we will review and CPAIC will handle each case on its own merit. Those (governors) who request virtual meetings we will allow them,” he said.

Last week, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi banned all physical committee meetings and discouraged any form of physical contact within Parliament.

The orders were necessitated by reports that a number of MPs and parliamentary staff had contracted the virus.

Last Tuesday, National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi disclosed that 36 parliamentary staff had tested positive for Covid-19.

“Parliament is a small area with a very high population. Already among us a few members have contracted the virus and we don’t know because many of us have not tested,” he said.

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