Budget Transparency And Citizen Participation In Counties In Kenya

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Publisher National Taxpayers Association (NTA)
Year of Publication 2013
Category Policies and Guidelines
County All/General
Description The centralized system of government in Kenya can be traced to the colonial days when it was meant to exclusively serve the interests of colonial masters. Post independence saw the introduction of a quasi-federal system that never was. Political support for the system dwindled and the independence government actively reverted to recentralization of the state reintroducing challenges of a centralized system the country had struggled with until the promulgation of the current constitution in 2010. As a result, Kenyans have invested high hopes in devolution as a means of eliminating development imbalance and poverty.

The constitution introduces devolution with the arrangement of a national government and 47 county governments as a way of bringing the government closer to the grassroots. It also clarifies the roles and responsibilities for the three arms of government; the executive, the legislature and the judiciary who will each independently prepare and submit their respective budgets to parliament. Parliament is now split into the National Assembly and the Senate and the constitution strengthens accountability mechanisms by providing for checks and balances in public finance management. It is anticipated that devolution will decentralize both economic and political power to the county governments by promoting democratic and accountable exercise of power and ensuring equitable sharing of national and local resources. In spite of these hopes, when we look at the history of decentralization in Kenya we must recognize the risk of decentralizing corruption and impunity to the counties unless urgent measures are put in place to safeguard against this. Kenya has operated devolved funds for a number of years, including the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and the Local Authority Transfer Fund (LATF). Yet these have not always performed to expectation. They were operated in an opaque fashion, were subject to multiple abuses, and fell short in the area of public participation. Citizen participation in CDF and LATF through the Local Authority Service Delivery Action Plan (LASDAP) process was next to zero. Tough lessons can be drawn from the successes or failures of these two funds to inform participation at the county level. It is evident that the quality of participation in financial matters both at the national and local levels was insufficient to impact any change on decision making or resource allocation.

Across the border in Uganda, devolution was implemented several years ago. Unfortunately it has faced serious resistance to date. Central government continues to exert control over both political and economic powers. As a result over the years in practical terms the country has slowly recentralized, even as devolution remains defined on paper. Kenya must be careful to avoid the same potential pitfall by adhering to the letter and spirit of the constitution. The cornerstone for this is to empower citizens to participate in all matters of the state, to determine their destiny and hold duty bearers to account.
Tags Public Finance


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