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Budget Making Process is actually, not a preserve of County Government Officials

Albert Bwambok, Budget Champion, Nandi County.

Until recently, I have, in the past, presumed that the budget and the budget making process was a preserved role of the county government officials. I had a little knowledge that a young person like myself had a constitutional right to participate in the process of budget making and also secure allocation of the budget to programs and projects that benefit the youth. My participation in an inclusive budget campaign facilitated by the OGI changed my perception. I came to realize that I was ignorant in matters of the budget and budget process, albeit being an economist graduate. The training on public finance and governance introduced me to elements of economics that had not interacted with in my studies, thus, the training was timely for my personal development and an eye-opener of my needed contribution to shape the budget to address both the social and economic need of the youth. I learnt about teamwork and commitment, analysis of county budgets and related economic documents, as well as the importance of budget data for informed participation. Overall, the training was a golden opportunity to learn on my constitutional right and responsibility. I am now equipped to enlighten other young people. And collectively, we can confidently and respectfully criticize our county government to improve on delivery of public services and equitable development to all citizens regardless of age, gender and region. As an economist, I killed two birds with one stone in my participation in the campaign..

I’m Now Confident I Can Cause Change in My Community

Brian Too, Budget Champion, Nandi County

When I and other youth leaders in Nandi County started the citizen campaign in 2022, I thought it was going to be the most difficult task. This is because of the perennial marginalization and exclusion from mainstream decision-making in the county, especially the budget making process, compounded with unmet promises and commitments made by our political leaders. 

Because of this, I was less confident that the County Assembly would give a memorandum that we submitted a chance based on existing perception that governments do not involve the youth in the decisions they make. To my surprise, the County Assembly responded to our memo which contained seven proposals and several other budget credibility issues we had asked them to consider.

The County Assembly Budget and Appropriation Committee invited our leadership to a committee meeting at the assembly committee room, where we made oral presentation of the memo and its content. This gave us an opportunity and necessary audience to pitch our ideas and proposals. Subsequently, the committee, in its budget approval report, made concrete recommendations to the executive arm of the county government which included directives to the Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Finance and Economic planning to ensure that our proposals are included in the next County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP).

As a result, my confidence and my perception of government openness and responsiveness has changed. I also have a better understanding of my roles and responsibilities, as citizen, in shaping government decisions to address the needs of the youth.

This new-found belief has also increased my confidence in articulating matters of budgeting because the submission served as a reference point that it is possible to cause change and co-create impact in my community.

I am now encouraged and confident that I can participate in similar advocacy campaigns to keep the county officials on their toes and hold them accountable for their decisions by providing evidence-backed feedback.

Nandi Youths Memorandum to the County Assembly Timely & Vital

26th May 2022, Kapsabet Kenya: The Public Finance Management (PFM) Act 2012 provides mechanisms through which County Governments should engage citizens to share what their needs and priorities are when preparing budget documents. This consultation creates a sense of ownership of the projects and services the government delivers to mwananchi. Initially, free, fair, competitive and regular elections were meant to ensure representation of people at the decision-making table, but in today’s Kenya elections despite being free and fair, the representatives elected do not fully represent the needs of the people because of little consultations and unclear manifestos which would otherwise mean the people electing them subscribe to what is highlighted in the manifestos. This is why meaningful and genuine public participation is vital today.

Public participation ensures that county government, civil society, youths, the private sector and the common mwananchi together have a rapport on the local priorities, resources-situation and programs. Their participation ensures there is openness, transparency and accountability in governance and inclusivity in decision making. No man is an island, and money and resources belong to the people. Citizens must be consulted on how these limited resources should be used and youths being the majority in this country and Nandi County as well, must be at the table where these decisions are made.

Open Governance Institute has for many years lobbied for meaningful and genuine public participation decentralized to the lowest level which is wards and villages. We are pleased with the decision by the young people of Nandi and especially the over 120 budget champions who are analyzing the budget, asking latent questions in regards to allocations that matter to them and seeking the county Assembly’s intervention through the memorandum. We have offered them technical support and we will continue to do so in our quest for open governance and also ensure they achieve their aspirations.

While supporting the budget champions to analyze the Nandi County budget estimates for FY 2022/23, the analysis queried six red flags such as inadequate absorption of development budget to the recurrent vote where over the four-year period beginning 2017/18, the county had a budget of Kshs. 32 billion out of which 64% went to recurrent and 36% to development vote absorbing 93% of the allocation to the recurrent vote and only 50% of the development vote. The other query was on unsubstantiated budget changes in salary and operations and maintenance where the cost of Personnel Emoluments (PE) or Salaries increased by 66%, and then, in 2017/18, the County Government spent Ksh. 1.7 billion on O&M then later in 2020/2021 the same O&M allocation was reduced by about a half a billion to Ksh. 1.2 billion.

These and more budget credibility issues that are captured in the memorandum submitted by Budget Champions on 26th May 2022 to the County Assembly give us more reasons why public participation is important for all and especially the youths who are languishing in poverty with no stable sources of income. Some of these unutilized funds could be used to create Youth Agricultural and Business Enterprise Fund for youths as they have indicated in the memo where they can borrow these funds to rear chicken or do other agribusiness activities and then pay later when they sell their products.

In conclusion, in Article 1(2) of the Constitution of Kenya, young people are empowered to exercise their sovereign power directly through public participation and platforms that promote self-governance. Further, the County Governments under section 34 of the County Government Act 2012 are obligated to enhance self-governance for communities in the management of development programs and to ensure the protection and promotion of the interests and rights of minorities and marginalized communities. It is therefore our call to all of us to support these young people of Nandi in seeking their rightful involvement in budgets. The County Assembly of Nandi should consider their submissions and revise the Budget Estimates in their favor.

Nicodemus Muriuki | OGI Communication Specialist

OGP Co-creation in Kenya have great complementary lessons for Kenya’s Big Four

Recently, Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration launch big-four plan to transform Kenya. The four agenda of food security; affordable housing and healthcare and; manufacturing which aim at advancing the gains made since independence and advance Kenya’s vision 2030, are somewhat coined from the founding Kenya father’s key planks of transforming Kenya at independence – eradicating disease; poverty and; ignorance.

The challenge for Kenya is: how should we execute the big-four agenda in a manner that strengthens delivery of these promises?

In consideration of the fact that the four-agenda plan is not new, there is need to rethink and learn from own lessons and other practices in public planning and budgeting, borrow lessons from global practices such as the Open Government Partnership initiatives.

Kenya and Elgeyo Marakwet County are both participants in Open Government Partnership (OGP), a multilateral initiative that brings together and, secure commitments from government reformers. The two entities recently developed their respective commitments as required of their participation in the partnership. The approaches and practices applied to develop the two Action Plans and, the resulting commitments provide key opportunities for learning in efforts to strengthen efforts to achieve the objectives of the four-agenda plan.

A review of the respective Action Plans and the processes in which they were developed, demonstrate clear benefits of adoption of collaborative and inclusive approaches and strategies applied, also referred to as co-creation. Both Kenya’s NAP III and Elgeyo Marakwet County’s commitments carry the input, preference and aspirations of various actors including the public; legislature; civil society and private sector as reflected in the forward of the Kenya’s NAP III.

By bringing various actors on board in the development of the commitments, both Kenya’s National and Elgeyo Marakwet County;s OGP Action Plan II, ensured that the commitments address key reform needs across board. In addition, the deliberate decision to apply an inclusive and collaborative approach creates ownership of the commitments among the country’s open government reformers, which is valuable resource for implementation. These two set of values: inclusivity and collaboration, are directly applicable in efforts to achieve the four-agenda plan and, also a clear demonstration that financial resources alone, is not sufficient for the achievement of Kenya’s transformation agenda.

The agenda has already been set, however, its implementation could benefit from review of the milestones and roles expected to be played by various actors – for example, the role of county governments in achieving the agenda should be clearly outlined and grounded.

OGP values advance fundamental tenets for prudent and effective public planning and budgeting. In the case of the four-agenda, understanding of key elements of the agenda such as: the ideology behind the plan and, for whom is the agenda important; expected change and; how to measure change? Which components of the agenda are county functions and are county governments aware?

With answers to these questions, the next step would be to determine the resource requirements to realize the agenda. The four-agenda plan could be subjected to technical review and open opportunities for collecting and entrenching public input. Even then, such opportunities must reflect meaningful desire to build stronger collaboration and alliances with citizens and other stakeholders whose efforts could advance the agenda.

Of all the four key targets of the 2018-2020 National Action Plan, commitments such as re-invigorating active citizenship that engages in co-creating Government at all levels; improving quality of measurement of development and data for decision making for all and; curating a resilient and sustainable culture of Open Government – are all strong instruments available to the government to restructure its four-agenda for greater implementation.

The president as the vision carrier and, his delivery team should appreciate that it is not solely the role of resources that failed the delivery of similar objectives in the past. Inadequacies and deficiencies in government systems; openness and inadequate good governance practices are critical contributing factors. Moving forward, the Kenya’s Big Four agenda should tick boxes for all of the elements outlined in this paper or at least majority of them to strengthen its implementation.

The author is the Executive Director at OGI Kenya and a public policy analyst, for any questions or clarification, please contact Tim at tim@ogikenya.org.  You can follow and tweet @kipronotm.