Public participation is at a core of devolution and is a key determinant of the success of both the County and National Governments’ plans and policies. This aspect is strongly anchored in the constitution of Kenya, 2010. Public participation is anchored in the Public Participation Act of all the counties in Kenya. The public is supposed to be involved in making decisions in all the matters that touch on their holistic well-being.
Citizens Participation and Governance implies the involvement of citizens in a wide range of policy making activities and processes, including the determination of levels of service, planning, budget priorities, establishment of performance standards and 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 in the success of devolution and realization of 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.
Situation Analysis and Challenges in the targeted Counties:
The implementation of the constitution and the devolution has progressed albeit challenges including low participation by citizens in various targeted Counties partly attributed to ineffective implementation of Public Participation Acts. This is responsible for the inadequate information, and the challenges of tokenistic participation and the unsupportive stakeholders in the county government. There is low awareness of the citizens on constitutional matters and devolution processes. There has been a minimal effort directed to Civic Education by duty bearers to facilitate Civic Actions by various community groups in Tharaka Nithi County. A key concern is the marginalization of stakeholders like the Youth, Women and Persons Living with Various Forms of disabilities (PLWDs) in planning and governance processes yet one of the objects of devolution as espoused in the constitution in chapter 11 is to ensure equity. Poor understanding by citizens of the role of elected representatives has also contributed to lack of consideration by citizens of the roles of those being elected for key positions including that of the Members of County Assembly (MCAs) when demanding accountability. Citizens are yet to fully appreciate and differentiate the role of the executive and that of their elected representatives.
Though the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act 2015 identifies structures through which citizens may participate in processes like the development of County Integrated Development Plans (CIDP) , Annual Development Plans (ADPs)and in budget making, citizens are not effectively participating in these processes and where they do they have expectations that the county governments may not fulfill. This is clearly evidenced by the Auditor General’s, disclaimer, qualified and adverse Audit reports for the past 7 fiscal years for some counties in Kenya which show high misuses of public resources. Citizens are yet to fully appreciate that they have a duty to participate in governance if the objectives of devolution are to be realized.
IT has also become clear that some counties are also not providing citizens adequate opportunities to participate in governance by not sharing relevant documents like the budget estimates and by holding poorly organized public participation forums. For instance in some counties, Citizens result to involving the courts to stop its implementation of some county plans and budgets expenditures. Citizens need to participate meaningfully in governance by undertaking social accountability initiatives like the community score cards that contribute towards enhancing service delivery to the poor who mainly rely on public services in areas like health, water and early child hood education. Therefore, based on the above information, GRADIF-K finds it necessary to build a critical mass of citizens on the provisions on the constitution and the laws on devolution for them to effectively engage in governance practices.
Grassroots Development Initiatives Foundation-Kenya (GRADIF-K) is undertaking various initiatives which are aimed at making contributions towards Rooting Democracy in Kenya and promoting good governance practices through an Informed Citizenry. These include: Entrenching constitutionalism by promoting national values and Nationhood exercise of sovereign power, holding public officials to account, Safeguarding and strengthening devolution for improved service delivery and transformation of lives and in promoting free and fair elections by enhancing participation of citizens in the electoral processes. Such initiatives are also aimed at addressing the challenges faced by the marginalization of women, youth, persons with disabilities (PWD) and minority communities by capacity building them and including them in social accountability initiatives. This increases and enhances their representation in various Counties governance processes.
Specific objectives that the intervention seeks to achieve include:
- Improved capacity of citizens and citizen groups at the local level to undertake monitoring of implementation of development through participatory audit
- Enhanced community Social Accountability knowledge and skills to effectively demand transparency and accountability in public service delivery
- Increased awareness among citizens on the constitution and electoral processes for effective participation and engagement in governance process and practices
Key Activities Undertaken:
- Community Level Civic Awareness Forums
- Training of Civic Education as facilitators and Trainers of Trainers (TOTs)/Facilitators and supporting them to undertake various village/ward based Civic Education activities.
- Organizing and working closely with technical persons to facilitate various Interactive Talk Shows in Local FM Radio Stations on Human rights, governance and public engagement and participation.
- Undertaking various social accountability exercises including use of score cards
- Monitoring the devolved government’s projects and related public activities implementation as well as value for money for planned projects.
- Facilitating the preparation and presentation of Memorandums of understanding on various public matters to the relevant authorities and policy makers including the county Government for their action.
- Increase in number of citizens participating in monitoring of service delivery using the community score card tools
- Enhanced awareness among citizens on the constitution, devolution, participation and the electoral process
- Increased understanding by citizens on accountability, social accountability process and its application in the monitoring the implementation of development programs by government.
- GRADIF-K envisages improved development at the local level due to prudent utilization of public resources, effective delivery of quality public services and inclusion of citizens in development planning and budgeting as a result of increased participation by citizens in governance and enhanced engagement of citizens and public officers