Citizens’ participation in Kenya finds its early roots in development projects that benefited local communities. Throughout the post-colonial era, the country took legislative steps to provide ways for citizens to be active participants in the governing of their country. Most of these ways, however, were limited to local authorities and the implementation of laws incorporating citizen participation did not reach their full potential because citizens did not fully understand their rights or embrace the opportunity. Finally, local authorities struggled to promote local funding and planning processes to citizens, like the Local Authority Service Delivery Action Plan (LASDAP) and the Constituencies Development Fund (CDF).Citizens’ or Public participation is a prerequisite for successful policy and decision-making and is a precondition for transparent, open and democratic governance.

Popular Definitions:

Citizens Participation and Governance implies the involvement of citizens in a wide range of policymaking activities, including the determination of levels of service, planning, budget priorities, establishment of performance standardsand the acceptability of physical construction projects in order to orient government programs toward community needs, build public support, and encourage a sense of cohesiveness within neighborhoods. Citizen engagement in devolved government’s systems implies the involvement of citizens in planning, decision-making process of the County Governments’ measures and/or institutional arrangements so as to increase their influence on service delivery, equitable distribution of devolved resources, enactment of favorable policies and programmes to ensure a more positive impact on their social and economic lives. It entails sound public sector management (efficiency, effectiveness and economy), accountability, exchange and free flow of information (transparency), and a legal framework for development (justice, respect for human rights and liberties).

GRADIF-K is making every afford effort to ensure that every citizen in all the targeted counties understands the Constitution of Kenya 2010 (COK, 2010) and particularly the chapter on devolution and public participation. The new constituting has placed the citizens at the center of the constitution, which provides a strong legal framework for citizen participation. We are making efforts to promote citizens’ involvement in matters affecting their lives through ensuring their active engagement in the implementation and monitoring of the Constitution of Kenya (COK) 2010. Devolution will further enhance their active participation in the management of their counties and available resources. Further, this thematic area seeks to enhance the capacities and governance of the CBOs and other grassroots groups to galvanize rights demands for effective services to the citizens.

Meaningful citizen participation is the key determinant factor to the success of devolution and good governance at the county level. This is only attainable if the citizens have understanding of devolution and a realistic idea of how duty bearers (elected/appointed leaders) should perform. It is only then that the citizen will be able to hold their county government to account. The Constitution of Kenya 2010, in Article 1 states that all sovereign power is vested to the people of Kenya. This power can be expressed through direct participation or indirectly through elected representatives. Various pieces of legislations list the principles of citizen participation, for instance, Part VIII of the County Government Act, 2012, 2nd Schedule of the Urban Areas and Cities Act, 2011 and as one of the principles of public service in the CoK, 2010. The constitution places the citizens at the Centre of everything and promotes the aspect of participation and involvement as a key factor to enhance its successful implementation and good governance.

Citizen/public participation is a two-way process where the government provides opportunities for citizen involvement and the citizens choose whether or not to utilize these opportunities based on their interest among other things. It is also in the interest of county governments to enact appropriate legislations/frameworks and provide conducive environment to encourage active participation from citizens/public so that they can make valuable contributions to the decision making processes. Participation can be at individual level but is more effective if done in organized groups such as youth groups or even Civil Society Organizations. The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 provides the citizen with various avenues for participation in governance. Citizens may organize themselves into the citizen fora as provided for in the County Government ACT, 2012, Urban Areas and Cities Act, 2011, county planning, budget preparations and validation fora and citizens’ fora provided.

The citizens may also participate in: the identification of community needs and development planning for the county; county budget preparation and validation; implementation of development projects at the local level and in the actual monitoring and evaluation of projects or programs being implemented through public funds in the county. The public can support mechanisms of social accountability by participating in Local referendum, town hall meetings, and visiting development project sites. They may also participate by applying for tenders to supply goods and services to the county government. The Public Finance Management (PFM) Act, 2012 provides for public participation in public financial management and in particular: the formulation of the Budget Policy Statement, County Fiscal Strategy Paper and the Budget Estimates; the preparation of Division of Revenue Bill and County Allocation of Revenue Bill. The County Budget and Economic Forum provides a platform for public participation in county planning and budgeting.

GRADIF-Kenya recognizes the importance of Public Participation in all matters affecting them and at all levels. This is promotes good governance of resources, fair and equitable distribution of resources.GRADIF-K believe very strongly that rapid and enduring change is possible when communities and development stakeholders are empowered with appropriate resources including information (Knowledge &Skills) to be able to make informed decisions, initiate their own solutions, actively participating in addressing development challenges affecting them and their communities, working together as well as harnessing and tapping available resources from other networks &Partnerships that offer solutions. We highly invest in enhancing the capacity of Communities served, Civil Society Organizations (CSOS), strengthening Networks and associations as a firm unit of promoting a variety of community driven development efforts that touch people’s priorities. This is achieved through capacity development which includes civic education, advocacy to influence enactment of supportive policies, partnerships building and building of linkages.

It’s is therefore with this in mind that every effort is being made to ensure that all the citizens in all counties supported, understand the venues and methods through which they can actively participate to enhance service delivery, promote accountability and good governance, for improved living standards and realization of sustainable development.

Key Interventions Undertaken and Accomplishments to Date Include:

  • Undertaken various Civic education sensitizations meeting/forums to various groups in different supported counties
  • Participating and or organizing relevant policy advocacy forums in all the counties served.
  • Engaging with the county government on the matters on devolution implementation.
  • Supporting citizens/public participation in County Planning and budgeting processes through ensuring that they are fully informed/aware of the scheduled meetings dates.
  • Creating awareness to the public on the County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs) for each sub county so that they can hold the county government and their leaders responsible if the plans are not timely& effectively implemented.
  • Development, editing and dissemination of popular versions of relevant policy documents for ease of conceptualization by targeted citizens.
  • Civic engagement on Constitution of Kenya (COK) 2010 provisions.
  • Supporting Social Accountability initiatives’ including monitoring the utilization of the, Counties funds, Government’s devolved funds and sub counties’ development funds.
  • Undertook a baseline assessment exercises to establish the level of citizen participation and wide dissemination of the findings to stakeholders for appropriate actions.
  • Development, consolidation and distribution of the IEC materials on relevant COK 2010 provisions and related Governance materials.
  • Advancing advocacy efforts for women and marginalized population involvement and participation.
  • Holding interactive radio talk shows on various matters affecting the county which ensures wider reach to communities.
  • Journalists training and media engagement.
  • Promoting use of ICT e.g. Bulk SMS systems for community mobilization, information sharing and advocacy.