Public participation in Kenyan counties remains a great challenge. It is also a challenge for the national government. Public participation in Kenyan counties is one of the national values and principles of governance.
Article 10 of the Kenyan Constitution enshrines the national values and principles of governance. It will take some time to effect and realize public participation fully in the Kenyan counties.
We appreciate devolution as a country, but its challenges have been extreme. Many people expected devolution to be promising. As such, it is still important to manage those high expectations.
Public participation in Kenyan counties is one way of ensuring transparency and accountability in governance. A case example is the importance of public participation in the oversight of public finance in Kenya.
Nevertheless, how can public participation in Kenyan counties become effective? It is important for Kenyans to involve themselves with the county governments.
Improving public participation in Kenyan counties
Transparency International (TI Kenya) has some recommendations on how to make public participation in the Kenyan counties effective
There are key stakeholders who are important to promote civic education in the counties. They include the national government, county governments, relevant independent commissions, and civil society organizations.
The key stakeholders should enhance civic education to intensify awareness on key county processes. Such processes include:
- county planning and budget-making process;
- opportunities for public participation;
- roles of elected leaders.
County governments need to engage the public actively in key county processes such as:
- identifying and prioritizing county projects;
- oversight and accountability.
The county governments also need to come up with public participation frameworks to guide civic engagement in the county processes.
County governments should boost public communication to intensify public access to information and transparency. They can utilize platforms such as:
- social media;
- mobile phones and SMS;
- community media;
- public noticeboards.
They should also simplify key documents for county planning, budgets, and bills into popular versions. They should then disseminate them widely through accessible channels.
The county governments should embrace and stick to the policy of zero tolerance to corruption. This will ensure prudent use of the limited resources in the counties and the country. The counties can achieve zero levels of corruption through measures such as:
- strictly enforcing the Leadership and Integrity Act and other relevant laws;
- enacting the requisite legislation such as access to information and whistle-blower protection laws;
- domesticating relevant anti-corruption mechanisms.
Access to information legislation
Without proper access to information, the public cannot hold their leaders accountable in the spirit of the Constitution. Article 35 of the Kenyan Constitution safeguards the public access to information.
Access to information law is important to provide a legal framework for the dynamic provision of information to the public. The county governments should ensure that they establish and implement this law.
Some structures already exist to promote relations between the national and the county governments. They include:
These intergovernmental relations structures need development towards collective resolution of major problems such as insecurity.