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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.

How do Participatory Institutions Impact Revenue Collection at the County Level?

As Kenya’s devolved system of government approaches the 10 years mark, the creation of opportunities for further self-governance in which governments and citizens can deliberate together to plan, budget, and address gaps in service delivery represents a great milestone. However, resource constraints remain a big and common challenge and a limitation for the devolved units to meet their constitutional obligations to the Kenyan citizens.

Kenya’s counties rely heavily on national transfers (equitable share) to finance their budgets alongside County Own-Source Revenue (OSR) which comprises fees, charges, rates, and other taxes assigned to county governments. Although the national transfer represents the largest share of county revenue and is a somewhat predictable and reliable source of financing, county governments have no control over the transfer timelines and frequency. In some cases, counties have gone for months without receiving their national transfer shares while the amount available through OSR makes a small portion of the revenue pot, thus raising concerns on the ability of county governments to sustain their operations.

Albeit representing a small portion of the financing pot the growth of Own-Source Revenue (OSR) represents the most viable and feasible opportunity for the devolved units to achieve self-reliance. County governments are directly responsible for its management including collection, policy, and legal frameworks. According to the COB, over the last three fiscal years through 2018/19, counties’ collections averaged 68% of the annual revenue target. Challenges in managing this function include low compliance by tax-payers which lead to costly enforcement of revenue laws and regulations and the application of complex collection mechanisms in some counties.   

In this webinar, we brought together key stakeholders to explore ways in which county governments can enhance the management of OSR through efficient and effective governance systems and processes, with a focus on the role of Participatory Institutions. A panel of lead researchers and governance practitioners reflected and shared lessons to establish ways in which the existence of Participatory Institutions and ideals of governance systems such as public accountability and transparency impact collection and general management of local revenue (OSR). 

Notes from panelist 

  • Participatory Budgeting (PB) is an example of a participatory institution that has been tested and adopted across the World. PB is a rapidly growing program that can be customized to produce desired development outcomes. The adoption and application of PB in Brazil present a classic example of its effect on local governance. PB draws its power and effectiveness from the fact that the process involves the public in allocating real money; thus, the process leads to real outputs that are also binding on the government. 
  • When complemented with governance ideals such as government transparency and accountability in the management of taxes and other public resources, and properly designed, Participatory Budgeting has the potential to improve the credibility of government and build trust which then leads to long-term and sustainable improvement in tax compliance, low-cost enforcement of tax laws and policies, and overall cost-effectiveness in the collection and administration of tax revenues. 
  • To enhance the credibility of government and build trust, participatory budgeting and other participatory mechanism result in citizen’s sense of ownership of the projects identified and allocated resources to address common and immediate needs, creates platforms for deliberation and collective decision-making while the government is more obligated to accountability and transparently deliver on the commitments made through participatory processes. More so, through transparency and accountability of taxes revenues,  governments persuade citizens by demonstrating the value of taxes through the publishing of budget information including quarterly reports that show revenue collection performance and status of programs and project implementation. According to County Budget Transparency Surveys (CBTS), only five (5) counties consistently published quarterly implementation reports.

Relevant lessons from county governments

Governance practitioners in Kenya argue that there is limited empirical data to link participatory institutions and ideals of governance such as transparency and accountability to tax revenues in Kenya, however, some county governments have experienced incremental changes in revenue, although marginal. 

In Elgeyo Marakwet County, the revenue registered an annual revenue growth of 10% since the enactment of the county’s Equitable Development Act (EDA) 2015  – a law that empowers citizens in each ward to directly allocate an average of KES 35 million (or USD 350,000) annually. Mr. Maritim suggests that the county may not authoritatively attribute the revenue growth to public participation and the ability of citizens to allocate a portion of the budget; however, he notes that the level of taxpayer compliance to tax revenue laws has equally improved and may not be a coincidence. To demonstrate the direct correlation between factors that affect taxpayer willingness and accountability of government on the actions it takes,  delayed construction of a market and Boda Boda (motorbike) shades in West Pokot County. resulted in the users of the respective shades refusing to pay respective fees and charges in protest. This is a common experience across most counties in Kenya including extreme cases in Kiambu and other counties where taxpayers consider litigations as alternative measure mechanisms for corrective action. 

Annette Omollo, World Bank Kenya sharing her experience on how PB has impacted development in different counties. John Kinuthia, from IBP Kenya discusing on how trust and transparency can persuade taxpayers

Obervations and reflections from Participants 

  • There is a need to expand the scope of conversation both vertically and horizontally going forward. Horizontally, the discussion should consider exploring examples of relevant case studies from across a representative number of counties in Kenya and also international experiences from a wide variety of contexts to provide an expanded list of applicable lessons and practices. 
  • Meaningful participation is a resultant effect of an informed citizenry, thus, there is a need to incorporate knowledge and capacity development in the participatory processes. The outputs of participatory institutions should include civic education to citizens on various governance practices, roles of various government institutions as well as citizens’  rights and responsibilities and how they are to play these roles. Limited access to information, including budget data and information, budget financing mechanisms, and the expected outcomes represents a major challenge to the informed participation of citizens and eventually impedes taxpayer reciprocity.
  • The link between various parts of the PFM system is inadequate to stimulate a structured debate on how to grow local revenue through stronger participatory institutions, especially on how these taxes are used and accounted for. For example, to demonstrate the value of a new market or market structure and understand and appreciate the return in value from the payment of fees and charges, tax-payers must be proactively engaged in setting the fees, charges, and rates and subsequently made to share the vision and objectives of tax revenue-raising measures. 
  • An assessment done by the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) on revenue administration frameworks in Tana River, Turkana, Uasin Gishu, and Samburu supports the value of deliberate efforts to engage taxpayers in setting revenue targets. According to the Commission, these county governments implement targeted public participation approaches in which specific taxpayers e.g. ratepayers are convened to deliberate on land and property rates. 

Conclusion and recommendations

In conclusion, submissions of the panelists support the argument that citizens are willing to pay taxes when they know they have power over allocations and are guaranteed that the government will keep its commitment to utilize the taxes transparently and accountably. 

The adoption of Participatory Budgeting (PB) is possible in the Kenyan context, however, a clear and shared purpose and vision for the adoption must be established. Whereas PB has proven to be a successful approach to participation, the counties that have attempted to adopt it have either stagnated or abandoned its implementation, thus, the need for institutionalization of the participation. Partially, this is because of limited knowledge and understanding of its effect on other parts of governance systems beyond citizen empowerment, transparency, and accountability. Another way to increase the adoption and institutionalization of PB and other effective participatory institutions is to entrench it in the political agenda of political leaders to leverage on political structures and ambitions in deepening the practice.

“Increase trust and tax morale increase reciprocity” Michael Touchton

Resources:

To listen to the zoom meeting click on this link https://drive.google.com/file/d/1TDmp_yC1Qh7lj8Oj-5LGKnsdRYJWMp_C/view?usp=sharing

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.

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