Enhancing Public Participation in County Governance - Foundation Office Kenya
The Constitution of Kenya 2010 has revolutionized the system of Governance in the country. It has introduced two levels of government (Article 6) and the devolved system of governance. Article 174 clarifies the objectives of devolution key among which include promoting democratic and accountable exercise of power; to give powers of self-governance to the people and to enhance the participation of the people in exercise of the powers of the state as well as in making decisions affecting them. Further, article 201 elaborates the principles and framework for public finance management and lays emphasis on transparency, accountability and public participation. However, even with these clear provisions, it seems that the majority of the citizenry do not have the requisite capacity to engage with government to ensure that the constitutional principles are upheld.
Even though the Constitution has expressly provided for public participation in governance processes at both national and county levels of government, there has been very minimal citizen participation and/or involvement since the promulgation of the constitution. As we transit into a fully devolved system of governance, where planning, coordination, budgeting, execution, monitoring and evaluation will be done at county level, enhanced citizen participation shall be critical in order to ensure transparency and accountability thereby facilitating optimal application of resources to address such social ills as poverty, illiteracy, corruption and insecurity.
It is on this account that Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) partnered with Centre for Enhancing Democracy and Good Governance (CEDGG) to conduct capacity building training for selected persons representing civil society organizations, relevant County Assembly Committees as well as the private sector to constitute a core team of trainers on good governance and public budget tracking.
Key Lessons Learnt:
- The essence of the Constitution is Good governance. It is everyone’s duty to respect, uphold and defend the Constitution. However, County Government should create an enabling environment for citizen oversight while CSOs should front this course.
- Participation requires organization. The County Government and CSOs should build the capacity of citizens on the need to form organized groups for representation and protection of their diverse interests.
- The documentary triggered critical thinking among participants on how to make use of powers, resources and function given to county structures to mitigate the failure of devolution particularly in Baringo County. It was also clear that there are diverse perspectives on devolution with a number of people missing out on the aspect of Public participation/ self-governance as the rationale for devolution
- Effective community mobilization is problem solving and change mechanism
- To address the problem of Public participation there is need to adopt laws, policies and best practices that address the following issues:
- Access to information
- Effective Public communication
- Promoting Public participation of the marginalized
- Integrating PWDs in public participation
- Civic awareness
- Participation in County Development planning
- Participation in service delivery
- Participation in the context of Public Finance Management
- Baringo County has several livelihood and infrastructural issues (hunger, insecurity, accessibility) yet the donor funding is limited thus intervention for governance should be supplemented by intervention targeted at livelihood projects.
- There is new wave of disillusionment among citizens occasioned by the tendency of County governments to emphasize one side of devolution; the supply side.
- Land-grabbing is an issue in towns in Baringo County
- The definition of marginalized community/groups in Baringo still remains a contentious issue in Baringo
- In Baringo County access to the means production such as land is largely defined by cultural practices which bring about gender inequality and entrenches marginalization of women in all spheres of governance and development.
- There is a disconnection between the vision (Planned strategies) and allocation of resources in Baringo County. Therefore there is need to monitor Development Plans vis-a-vis the Budgets.
- Print and Electronic media which Baringo County Government has relied heavily- may not be necessarily the most effective strategy. Instead churches, mosques, opinion leaders, social media can supplement this. The choice of the mobilization strategy should be informed by the preferences of the target group
- Limited Resources is a challenge to effective mobilization (fuel, meals, agenda dissemination) - to address this requires innovation. County Government needs to allocate time, resources and even personnel for community mobilization. It also requires partnerships between County Government and NSAs to raise resources. This can be done through forums such as CBEF, Town Committees.