Public Participation Key in promoting Transparency and Accountability in Counties
Many Kenyans have in the past years not taken time to follow up on services provided by the government because of many reasons. Among these reasons are understanding the right to demand information and lack of participation in the development county agendas.
While conducting a training on Devolution and Promoting Women’s Engagement in County Governance Systems in Kwale and Isiolo Counties for its community radio listening facilitators, AMWIK together with the participants realized the need for the community groups to engage proactively in demanding for better delivery of social services in their counties. The participants drawn from Kinango, Matuga and Isiolo South Constituencies noted more needed to be done by the County Governments in providing platforms for public participants. The County Government Act of 2012 states that the County Governments shall facilitate the establishment of structures for citizen participation including ICT based platforms, town hall meetings, budget preparation and validation fora, Notice boards announcements and citizens’ fora.
While the Kwale Government has established a communication office manned by a communication officer of the County and a public website titled ‘Kwale government information centre’, the Kwale participants noted that a majority of Kwale residents are illiterate and cannot access new media. In addition, the communication office is far away from a majority of the residents to follow-up on notices given by their government.
They complained that the government had been using print media mostly to advertise for jobs and tender opportunities which they felt marginalized the communities even more. They noted it had been a while since the community members had been called for a public baraza to deliberate on issues affecting their County.
“It’s important that the Governor understands the challenges we face when looking for information. It is not easy for most of us to know when a particular opportunity is being advertised as many of us live outside of Kwale town and some of us never access newspapers because a majority of us are semi-illiterate,” Mwakuwewa Bakari of Kinango Youth for Change said.
They complained that the county had a public information office used in the previous years to gather national news for use from the Upper Eastern Regions and did not have someone manning it.
Garbatulla residents commended their Ward representative Hon. Abdi Sora who out of his own initiative has set up an office in Garbatulla that is accessible to a majority of the residents.
“We are happy that Hon. Abdi has been able to keep us updated on the affairs of our county by putting up notices on opportunities from our county,” said Godano of Tokuma Youth Grou adding. “He had also requested World Vision to mobilize community groups to participate in the Isiolo County integrated development plans and the budgeting process.”
It is important that community groups be proactive in seeking for information on how the affairs of their counties are run so that they can participate and advocate for core developmental issues of their counties. It is even more crucial for the County governments to strategize and ensure that such platforms are available for everyone even those in the hard to reach areas.