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Obegi Malack

Why Public Participation is Key in Improving Local Governance and Service Delivery

By Obegi Malack

The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 transferred key functions and financing to an entirely new level of sub-national government which is County Governments.

The constitution shifted some key decision-making to these county governments, creating an environment where all will be involved in government matters. There is legal framework that includes provisions for government to share information, consult the public and gather citizen feedback.

The County Assembly receives and approves plans and policies for the management and exploitation of the county’s resources, the policies emanates from the public through public participation.

In Finance Act which is an essential document since it involves taxation, the constitution allows consultation with the public, in budget making process the public also identifies projects that should be funded through public participation, the law does not allow a Member of County Assembly to dictate which project should be done, the MCAs key roles are Legislation, Oversight and Representation.

The County Government must consult residents and all stakeholders, including business entities before making any amendments.  This is according to provisions of Articles 196 and 201 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.

We have seen few residents turn-up for public participation meetings due to lack of knowledge on how powerful their contributions are, they brush off government meetings claiming the county had already passed the laws and is holding the meetings for formality, it is high time residents and all stakeholders turn out for such meetings or they will continue to point figures to wrong people , the county should also provide the documents to be discussed on time not pumping on residents with documents which they aren’t aware of.

Public participation promotes accountability and enhancing local service delivery. The counties should also hold civic education and allow relevant independent commissions and civil society organizations to participate in government matters.

We have seen many County Governments sued for passing laws without involving the public , an example is a case which residents won against the County Government of Machakos for  failure to involve them in coming up with particular  laws . In the case in Machakos High Court ,Simeon Kioko Kitheka& 18 others v County Government of Machakos & 2 others [Petition 9 2018]. They accused the county of insertion the figure of Kshs 5,000.00 instead of Kshs 1,300 in respect of sand permit per 7 tonne Lorry per trip is contrary to the Constitution.

Judge GV Odunga ruled on August 2018 that the Machakos County Finance Act 2018 fell foul of Article of Article 2(4) of the Constitution and is inconsistent with the Constitution hence void to the extent of the inconsistency, ordering the county to refund an excess amount they had charged.

Obegi is a Senior Reporter with the County Press

Contact: @obegimalack, obegimalack@gmail.com

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