Public participation is the glue that binds County governments and their publics.
By Andrew Munyoki
The devolved government Act 2012 enumerates various objects of devolution that birthed devolution in post independent Kenya.
Two key objects that stand out amongst close to a dozen other objects are one, the recognition of the right of Kenyan local communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development and two, giving powers of self governance to the people and enhancing the participation of the people in the exercise of the powers of the state and in making decisions affecting them.
These two objects cannot be better summed up in governance and administration than in the aspect of citizen participation as governments (National and Counties) roll out their policies and programmes countrywide.
Basically, citizen or public participation is giving locals an opportunity to be seen and heard in the formulation and implementation of policies, laws and regulations ( including the approval of development proposals, projects and budgets) that affect their daily lives.
Citizens must however, understand their involvement in matters of (National / County) importance is not a privilege as misstated by a section of politicians but a constitutional entitlement and further, that they have an inherent right to petition their governments on any matter.
In return, the governments are required to respond expeditiously to any petition or challenge raised by the public and act accordingly.
While County governments have excelled in the involvement of their publics in the identification of various projects and policies like the County Integrated Development Plans (CIDP), County Fiscal Strategy Papers (CFSP) and a raft of other blue prints for implementation, there is still work to be done for locals to feel fully involved in the sharing of the county cake.
In most occasions than not, a public participation forum is driven by government experts in the particular topical areas with the citizens playing the audience role.
And in the event of a technical subject, a good number of the audience only remains passive, as mere spectators in a game whose rules they do not understand.
The begging question therefore is, is citizen participation just a dispatcher – recipient information play only? Definitely not, it must move beyond information sharing to involvement of all participants. Whether they are literate or not is a different matter altogether.
Citizen Involvement must never be seen by administrators as ceding of their official authority to the citizens while at the same time citizens ought to remain careful not to appear as to deliberately frustrate a rather smooth exercise with farfetched proposals, responses and recommendations because it is such that educe mistrust in governance.
Citizen Involvement will enhance the legitimacy of any government, foster transparency; encourage openness and prudence in the management of government resources among them budgetary allocations and the utilization of other state resources.
Citizen participation is therefore the glue that binds county governments and their publics during formulation and implementation of policies and legislations, alongside development projects and other programmes during sharing of the county cake.
For any comment (s) you can email Andrew Munyoki through firstname.lastname@example.org