NEW seats costing Sh200,000 each for the refurbished chamber in Parliament will start arriving next week. The seats are being made by prisoners at the Kamiti maximum security prison. Prisons authorities assured National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende that delivery of the 352 seats costing Sh70 million would start next week.
Deputy prison commissioner in charge of prison enterprises, Francis Makathimo, said the seats were in the final stages of completion. Marende was at the prisons on Thursday to to inspect the progress on the seats. The seats were supposed to be delivered to the National Assembly in February but were delayed as the prisons had to source the material for the seat covers from South Africa.
Last December, Marende defended the procurement of the seats at such a high cost saying the refurbished chamber should have "quality seats." He said the seats were procured according to the Public Procurement Act. The initial provision for each seat was Sh400,000 but the Kenya Prisons quoted half of this amount. Refurbishment of Parliament's debating chambers started on April 6, 2010 and should have been completed by April 5 last year.
The Ministry of Public Works has attributed the delay to additional works like the studio, the switching room and increased number of seats to accommodate additional MPs. Currently, the house seats 222 MPs but will now have to accommodate 349. But even with the new variations, the overall cost of the project remains Sh949 million, the National Assembly Clerk Patrick Gichohi said. The plan to create an ultra-modern Parliament with state-of-the-art facilities was first mooted in 2005.
Initially, Sh600 million was earmarked for the project but this was later upped to Sh800 million, prompting protests from MPs that it was a waste of public funds. Then Speaker Francis ole Kaparo did not succeed in persuading the MPs to approve the refurbishment budget. Marende succeeded in winning over MPs. The MPs have been using the old chamber but are set to move to the new modern chamber once the refurbishment is completed. The old chamber will then be upgraded for use as the Senate chambers at a cost of Sh700million.