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|Description||Kenyas new Constitution mandates a new era of public participation in government, particularly in the 47 new County Governments. Despite the limited participation in decisions regarding the vast majority of government spending, Kenya has a significant history with direct participation in government, as this has been a feature in several of the governments devolved funds such as the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and Local Authority Service Delivery Action Plans (LASDAP).
the objective of this report is to provide lessons and draw on best practices from previous Kenyan experiences with participation in local government, with a focus on how to effectively implement public participation. The research therefore seeks to prompt dialogue, ideas and action among stakeholders to follow through on the strong mandate provided by the Constitution, both at the national and the county level.
the report completes six case studies of direct public participation in local government, where cases were selected for their reputation of strong participation. Two of the case studies looked at the operation of the Local Authority Service Delivery Action Plans (LASDAP), which required citizen participation as part of the decentralized Local Authority Transfer Fund (LATF). Two of the case studies examined citizen engagement in the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) process, through which Members of Parliament spend discretionary funds in their local constituencies. Finally, two case studies looked at how citizens were engaged in overseeing the provision of water services through Water Action Groups (WAGs), consisting of individuals appointed by the water authority to report citizen complaints and monitor responses by the Water Service Providers (WSPs).
Some cross-cutting themes on citizen participation in the case studies up to now, the great majority of government funding in local areas is spent on projects or programs over which there is minimum citizen participation. Although Kenya has incorporated participatory requirements in the legislation that set up the CDF and LASDAP programs, these funds represented a small fraction of government expenditure. LATF received approximately 5 percent of national income tax revenue, which was distributed to local authorities, but only a fraction passed through the LASDAP process in practice. The CDF program received just 2.5 percent of government ordinary revenue.
national and international CSos have at various times and in numerous locations directly supported local CBos and citizens to engage in the LaSdaP, Cdf and WaG programs. These groups often provide value added in the form of training and of guiding local citizens on the fundamentals of good participation. However, for the most part, efforts by national CSOs to support citizen engagement in participatory processes have been sporadic, infrequent and rarely sustained for any length of time. in part, this reflects a lack of coordinated approaches by national NGOs and their donor partners in mainstreaming citizen participation in local government programs.
Public participation was often more effective at the beginning of the project cycle, when new investments were identified and prioritized. Citizens had less of an impact as projects were being implemented, in part because they did not have the requisite technical skills to monitor construction. in some cases, local officials went out of their way to provide technical support. In other cases they did just the opposite.
Public participation was also more successful when the process was practical and focused on issues directly relevant to citizens. For example, LASDAP decision meetings were conducted in each ward and centered on prioritizing a project for completion in the coming financial year. WAGs engaged citizens by explaining billing procedures and addressing concerns with meters and water leaks. While general discussions may take place at some meetings, they generally concentrated on immediate citizen concerns.
although there is growing experience with participatory processes across Kenya, even in more progressive communities there can be quite deep-seated perceptions on the roles of government vs citizens and CSos. Given that there will be a new set of institutions running County Governments, it will be very important early on that the rules governing citizen participation are well defined, and that information on the rules, procedures and timing are widely distributed.
How is participation promoted in these cases? the importance of effectively mobilizing citizens. Even with the best intentions, citizens faced numerous barriers to participating, especially the poor. They had little personal incentive to attend meetings, particularly given that they receive no individual compensation, and they lose time at work. Participation in the cases suggests that mobilization by external actors, such as chiefs and village elders, was a common tactic to ensure attendance in meetings. A similar tactic was to take a habitual meeting, such as the Baraza, and include the participatory focus on the agenda. Civil society at times served to mobilize citizens as well, but the sustainability of such initiatives is often uncertain. Other observations are that (i) careful attention should be paid to the accessibility of the venue, as well as the convenience of the meeting time; (ii) effective mobilization required a multi-pronged effort, using multiple communication and information channels to get the word out, (iii) giving adequate lead time was also a factor, as was the timing of citizen meetings. While there were widely differing structures and formats of community meetings, common characteristics of effective meetings included timeliness and an impartial chairperson not directly involved in the program.
the role of training. Training can help increase the effectiveness of citizen participation and align citizen expectations with the opportunities that government is providing. Such training may come from either government or civil society. In several of the case studies CSOs (both national and international) provided training to local citizens both before and after meeting with government officials, which improved their performance in working with public authorities. In one of the LATF cases, a CSO working with a facilitator set up resident forums, which trained local citizens in planning tools and community action plans. the training proved beneficial when the citizens participated in the LASDAP process. In one of the CDF cases, national CSOs partnered with local CSOs to train the community in social auditing and helped the community evaluate nine CDF projects. However, neither LATF nor CDF guidelines provided for systematic citizen training as a way of improving citizen participation. On the other hand, in the case of the WAG program, WASREB provided two days of technical training to the selected monitors.
involvement of technical expertise. A key feature of the more successful projects was the engagement of technical experts (e.g., public works officer) in preparing bills of quantity and inspection, amongst other. The cases illustrate that this depended very much on the leadership of the LA or CDF, and the extent to which they were able to reach out to and engage, on a sustained basis, the technical expertise needed. However, integration of this technical expertise has not been standardized nor fully integrated into the management of devolved funds, and this poses a major risk for successful implementation of citizen engagement in decentralized civil works programs.
Acknowledging the financial implications. Effective mobilization requires institutional capacity, staff time, and financial resources. While the cases did not attempt to systematically document all of the costs of community mobilization efforts, it is apparent that there were necessary costs associated with mobilization, sharing information, and obtaining ongoing feedback. In one of the LASDAP cases a small fee of KShs 1,000 was paid to the monitoring and ealuation committee members for transport, but fees were not paid for similar work in the other LASDAP case or for citizens involved in the CDF program. Other costs include those of CSOs providing support to citizens and the time spent by public officials in organizing and participating in civic engagement. The WAGs program paid expense money to the monitors to cover airtime, transport and report production.
Devolution Hub by Open Institute is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License