Public Participation in the Budgeting process is enshrined in the 2010 Kenya constitution and augment by the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act, 2012 states that 25 (5). In preparing the Budget Policy Statement, the National Treasury shall seek and take into account the views of — (a) the Commission on Revenue Allocation; (b) county governments; (c) Controller of Budget; (d) the Parliamentary Service Commission; (e) the Judicial Service Commission; (f) the public; and (g) any other interested persons or groups.
A key stage in the preparation of the Budget is the development of the Budget Policy Statement (BPS) given the challenging operating environment exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the preparation of the BPS should have included much more public participation. The BPS set out the strategic orientation and the budget envelops/headroom for the various ministries. As it compares proposed revenue and expenditures, funding gaps are identified quite early and ways of funding which have been traditional through debt, given the current concern on debt sustainability, effective dialogues between state official, and representative of various institutions for example business community, women, climate, marginalized are essential in ensuring the budget is not bloated and the foreseen budget gaps are addressed appropriately.
Although the draft BPS was published on 25 January 2021 and the public was given one week to provide input by the treasury and the BPS was formally was forwarded to the National Assembly on 14 February 2021 as required by the PFM Act. In its consultations, The National Assembly would have again made effort to enforce openness and public participation as stipulated in Article 118 of the 2010 Kenya Constitution.
That said, some counties that established well-functioning County Budget and Economic Forum (CBEF), most notably the Turkana county complied with setting up Public Participation for an at sub-county level on February 2021. The process was led by county and ward administrators, and membership to the forums was drawn from every ward and special interest groups (women, people abled differently, Elderly, and the youth were represented).To ensure effective participation at the CBEF level below figure shows a possible model.
Design of Participation
In the above model citizen in the school catchment area or Nyumba Kumi develop their priorities and then consolidate views of the ward through ward citizen forums. In this stage, citizen elects delegates to represent their views at Sub County sector working groups.
Five Ways to Improve Public Participation for effective Resource Allocation and Alignment
- Capacity building of Representative: The selected representative should be trained to analysed budget documents and financial statements for quality participation. Ability to analyse statistics and data used to prepare the budget and how that links to the government, county, and Wanjiku is instrumental in ensuring appropriate alignment of resources.
- Sharing of Budget documents: Budget documents to be reviewed by the public need to be shared early enough to enable the public to scrutinize the budget estimate.
- Simplified documents on the Budget and its management should be prepared and translated to local dialects or Swahili to ensure the Wanjiku understands how the government is funded and how her needs are met.
- Monitoring and evaluation: The public should be enabled to keep a watch on county/country spending and prioritization of resources. This would call for the setting up of a cost-containment committee that looks at ways of cost-saving and innovative ways of doing business that leads to budget savings and financial sustainability.
- A calendar/circular and budget preparation instructions should be prepared and circulated early enough. Counties should use the most popular mode of communication to reach a wider audience for public participation, for example, social media, chief baraza’s, local newspapers, local radio station, and church announcements among others.
Effective public participation would entail ensuring the resources are allocated and aligned to an important project, the County/Country Debt to fund the budget gap is sustainable and finally, the budget is used for what it was approved for, specific budget virements should be well justified and a huge portion of the Country Budget is allocated for impactful development areas.
Author: Naomi Njeri, Senior Budget Officer, African Development Bank
@Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_firJvHuTTU&t=3s