According to the World Bank Research on PB in Kenya, different counties implement a varied models of participatory approaches including Participatory Budget (PB) programs. Overall, more successfully designed and executed participatory processes have positively impacted the outcomes of governance systems and processes. From government accountability to equitable distribution of resources, services, and public goods, PB and other participatory processes in general have demonstrated a progressive advancement of sustainable development once done in the right circumstances.
John Maritim, the Director of Economic Planning in Elgeyo Marakwet county, notes that there are several factors to explain the increase in Own-Source Revenue including an expanded taxbase. However, following the enactment and operationalization of the Elgeyo Marakwet County Equitable Development Act (EDA) in 2015 which requires citizens to allocate a portion of the budget to their preferred projects through a participatory process led to an increase in citizen trust in government and subsequently, greater willingness to pay taxes. While there is no empirical evidence to support this argument in Kenyan context, there is general agreement that the adoption of participatory approaches that empower citizens to make decisions has a fundamental direct or indirect effect in increasing tax revenue in the county.
The case of Elgeyo Marakwet is a classic example of how well structured public engagement positively impacts governance systems and can lead to inclusive governance as supported by experience from Porto Alegre in Brazil. In 1989, Participatory Budgeting was first adopted in Brazil in which citizens were accorded opportunities to allocate a portion of the government budget in efforts to shift priorities to better support the least developed parts of the city e.g. improved infrastructure which citizens direct funds. As a result, citizen participation increased quantitatively and qualitatively while citizens were empowered to make decisions. This, eventually , increased the support for the government tax agenda
Locally, at a recent webinar held by OGI on behalf of the Coalition of Participatory Governance (CPG) which brought together leading researchers and governance practitioners and civil societies to share their experiences and lessons learned on PB, there was a general agreement that PB holds a great potential to impact revenue collection and growth when deliberately designed and executed to bring citizens’ voices into the decision-making and provide real opportunities for those voices to shape the outcomes of the decisions made. Several benefits can accrue from the adoption, a well-designed and implemented PB, and public engagement in general.
First, a well-designed participatory structure enhances inclusion and equity which in turn stimulates a sense of co-ownership of a government development agenda. When citizens deliberate together and build consensus they tend to take more active roles in the implementation of public projects. Moreso, when these projects directly identify with their needs including possible co-financing in some cases through community contributions as well as willful payment of taxes.
Secondly, when civilian oversight is embedded in the participatory process in which citizens are involved in the monitoring and evaluation of projects implementation, and the government acts more accountable and transparent in the management of these projects, including the process of procurement and award of public contracts as well as payments of such contracts, there is an increase in public trust that the government is managing their taxes well and are more willing to pay. The perception of corruption and fears of misappropriation of tax revenues is demotivation to pay taxes.
For instance, in Makueni County the adoption of PB in the planning and budgeting process and also implementation of Open Contracting (OC), the county government was perceived to be more open and transparent. According to a World Bank Report, Makueni County Governor, Kivutha Kibwana reported that the citizens played an oversight role and no money could be incurred from public projects without proper inspection by citizens to ensure payments were only made for completed projects.
Lastly, county governments may consider targeted approaches and strategies to receive relevant and quality input and feedback on the decisions they intend to take. For example, to know whether a land rate charge is reasonable, a participatory approach could be designed to target land rate-payers relative to a general approach in which everyone participated. An assessment done by the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) on revenue administration frameworks in counties show that targeted participatory approaches have been experimented in Tana River, Turkana, Uasin Gishu, and Samburu Counties. There is a need to document how successful these targeted approaches are and how to scale them up and across.
In conclusion, there are varied ways to meaningfully involve citizens in decision-making. A well-designed participatory process cultivates shared ownership of the outcomes of the decision-making process between citizens and leaders which in turn enhances public trust, tax morale and reciprocity.