OGI Kenya

Rationale of Participatory Budgeting (PB)

According to the World Bank  Research on PB, different counties in Kenya have tried and tested PB programs and have positively impacted the community hence progressing towards sustainable development. From government accountability to equitable governance, PB has proven to progressively advance sustainable development once done in the right circumstances.

John Maritim, the Director Economic Planning in Elgeyo Marakwet  county, notes there are several factors to explain the increase in own source revenue including an expanded tax-base. However, following the enactment and operationalization of the Elgeyo Marakwet County Equitable Development Act (EDA) in 2015 which required that citizens allocate a portion of the budget to their preferred projects through participatory process,  citizens ownership of the participatory process and the resulting projects led to an increase in citizen  trust in government and subsequently, greater willingness to pay  taxes and generally, support the government development agenda.  While there is no empirical evidence to support this argument,  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 one of classic examples of how Participatory Budgeting and other participatory institutions positively impact governance systems, society and can lead to inclusive governance. A case of Porto Alegre in Brazil supports this conclusion. 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. As a result of citizens directly allocating a portion of the budget, the process increased citizen participation and empowered them to make decisions increased the support for government tax agenda

Locally, at a recent webinar held by the Coalition of Participatory Governance which brought together lead researchers and governance practitioners and civil society to share their experiences and lessons learnt on PB , there was a general agreement hat PB holds a great  potential to impact revenue when deliberately designed and executed to bring citizens into the decision-making. 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 and subsequently, tend to take more active roles in the implementation of public projects especially 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 civil oversight is embedded in the participatory process in which citizens are involved in  monitoring and evaluation of project implementation the government acts more accountable and transparent in the management of these projects including procurement and award of contracts as well as payments of such contracts. Hence,there is an increase in 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 where Participatory Budgeting was adopted, citizens were part and parcel of the budgeting process and this led to government transparency on  public projects implementation. According to the theWorld Bank Report, Makueni County Governor, Kivutha Kibwana reported that the citizens played an oversight role and no money could be released  without proper inspection by citizens on the completed projects  and whether the same projects had been properly implemented.

In addition,when citizens are involved in the budget process planning , they get to understand the roles and responsibilities of different arms of the government. When citizens are involved in the decision-making process of participatory budgeting, they become more empowered to know the roles of different arms of the government in development.Nonetheless, it helps citizens understand the limitations of government for example,an MCA oversight and failure to supply water to their localities.

In conclusion,  the Participatory Budgeting process ensures all the marginalized groups in the society are included and have a voice in the decision making process of public budget expenditure. Therefore , adaptation of PB in all counties is paramount to ensure a just and equitable governance.

Written by Jane Mumo

Communications Specialist

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