CONSTITUTION AND PEOPLE’S PARTICIPATION IN DEVOLVED GOVERNANCE

The village of Bidii had worked hard to have new laws that would introduce better governance systems. After a long struggle, they got new laws that introduced devolved governance, which required people to get involved and participate in decision-making in all processes. The people of Bidii were happy with the new laws and had great hopes that everything was going to change for better. However, for the elected leaders, it was business as usual. They never involved people in decision-making processes.

The leaders ignored the people in decision-making processes and came up with projects that were not for the common interest of the people. The leaders prioritised projects that benefitted them. The people’s standard of living was low because of poor roads, poor health facilities and services, poor education facilities and services, lack of supply of clean water and sanitation.

The bad roads were the cause of fatal accidents involving some villagers, leaving those who escaped death with major injuries. In one such accident, Good Samaritans willing to help victims found themselves in great difficulties on how to transport the injured to hospital. On reaching the ill-equipped hospital, they found it has no ambulance, proper evacuation facilities, insufficient drugs and limited medical personnel.

This raised concern from the people about their government’s performance and prioritisation of the needs of Bidii. The villagers formed an advocacy group to engage their government to ensure that in the planning and budget allocations, priorities were set right.

Situation analysis

Over the years, Kenya has progressively shifted from a centralised to a decentralised form of governance. This shift was precipitated by the shortfalls of administrative bureaucracies and inefficiencies, misappropriation of public resources and the marginalisation of local communities in development processes by the central government.

Consequently in the late 1990s, the government began sending specific funds to the districts, local authorities and constituencies and giving decision-making authority to the levels (Legal Resources Foundation Trust, 2009).

However, decentralisation systems and structures lacked a coherent coordination framework. They were marred by overlaps, duplication, and despite their multiplicity, low citizen involvement (Kenya Human Rights Commission [KHRC] and Social and Public Accountability Network, 2010).

The 2010 Constitution provides a strong legal foundation for the enhancement of participatory governance through devolved structures at the county level. Although this is an important milestone, we can all agree that for the few months that we have had devolved governments, devolution is not without its risks. Whereas devolution is anchored in democratic principles and separation of power, (CoK Article 175:2) already there are concerns that Governments at both the National and County levels are not respecting these principles.

There has been very little, if any, public participation in constitution implementation. For example, most of the laws that have been enacted by parliament since the promulgation of the Constitution have been rushed, leaving very little room for citizens to participate. The result has been laws that contradict the spirit of the Constitution.

Such Laws include the Leadership and Integrity Act that reduced the Integrity threshhold, Amendments to the Elections Act that reduced qualifications for Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) and Members of Parliament,(MPs), amendments to the Political Parties Act that allowed party hopping and the struggle to amend Article 260 of the Constitution to exclude members of parliament, members of the Country assemblies, judges and magistrates from the list of designated state officers through The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment Bill) 2013; gazetted on the 12th July 2013.

County governments became effective after March 4th 2013 general elections. The County assembly was constituted through the elections while the executives in most counties have been constituted through appointments over time. Almost all the counties have in place institutions such as the County Public Service Boards. In most counties, the personnel are new to this kind of institution of county government, hence the capacity of these institutions to execute their mandates in most counties is low. The members of county assemblies also have great challenges of capacity to develop legislation, provide oversight and ensure meaningful citizen participation in all the processes of county governance.

It has been noted with a lot of concerns that at the County Government level, attempts to involve the citizenry in formulation of County Integrated Development Plans and Budgets have been haphazard. Citizens are involved just to meet the constitutional demands but not for any meaningful public participation. Effectively, County Governments risk elite capture with the worst case scenario being “a mafia economy” if citizens are not going to be robustly engaged in identification of priorities, their implementation, monitoring and evaluation. As was the case before promulgation of the new constitution, continued exclusion of citizens from governance processes will perpetuate corruption, impunity, inequitable development, institutional ineptitude, development inefficiency and other ills.

To avert all these social ills, the devolution rules and systems thus need to be properly designed and implemented. There is need for Citizens to master how devolution works. This will enable them develop mechanisms to demand for service delivery, get involved in county businesses and hold their government to account.

First reading: Ezekiel 37:12-14

Second reading: Romans 8:8-11

Gospel: John 11:1-45

People must take responsibility of their destiny. Sometimes we even leave our children to be brought up by teachers. This trend can lead to real death of our livelihood. We must look for ways we can be alive and participate in what matters in our lives. Secularism is killing our religious aspirations, yet it does not offer us any hope. The Risen Christ is our hope. He will restore us back to life.

Act

1. As citizens, what role can we play to ensure proactive and meaningful public participation in governance processes at both national and county government levels?

2. How has government and public institutions been involving you in their work in your locality?

3. What do you think are the pre-conditions for effective citizen participation?

4. What are the benefits of participating in your governance processes?


 

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