County governments have been challenged to improve on their public participation initiatives with view to making them more meaningful.
At a stock-taking workshop held in Maanzoni in August, community-based organizations, NGO's and county residents drawn from four counties decried the slow uptake of participatory leadership in both national and county governments.
The workshop was held under the auspices of "TAKE PART" campaign co-funded by the European Union and implemented by an Italian organization, CISP (Comitato Internazionale per lo Svillupo dei Popoli) and few other local organisations among them Tangaza University College.
The workshop was attended by residents, civic and county leaders from Kajiado, Kilifi, Mombasa and Taita Taveta counties. Representatives of national government also addressed and took part in the stock-taking exercise.
“On a national level, I would put the level of public participation in governance and decision-making at 30 percent. It's terrible considering that it’s now more than five years since we passed the new constitution. We need to do some more to make devolution dream a reality,” Jesse Njau, said the project manager of TAKE PART campaign which was launched in October 2014.
She said CISP had noted huge disparity between county pronouncements and policies on public participation and actual participation on the ground. She said the gap can be bridged if counties worked closer with civil society organizations working in the area of governance.
Public participation bills
At the workshop, participants shared the lessons they have learned in the field while promoting public participation, identified challenges and suggested solutions. They also resolved to improve on what is working in the counties.
"The methodology we are employing in the four counties we are working with at the moment is simple and inclusive. It enables every county resident participating in our enhanced town-hall meetings to participate and have their say on their wishes and priorities," Valeria Costa, the Kenya programe coordinator CISP said.
Costa and Njau challenged all county governments to not only pass county public participation bills but implement them as well.
Ms. Emy Mbwanga represented the ministry of devolution at the event. She called for closer harmony between civil society groups working to enhance public participation in the counties.
Also in attendance at the event were Christine Pekeshe, the County Executive Committee member in charge of devolution, public service and disaster management of Kilifi county, Nancy Gathaiya the CEC public service, administration and public participation in Kajiado County and Gertrude Kivunga and deputy sub-county administrator Taita Taveta County.
Others were Alex Mwachia, the coordinator of Sema Trust in Wudanyi, Taita Taveta, Mzungu Ngoma, CEO Institute of Participatory Development (Kilifi) and Walter Opande, CEO Muungano wa Wanavijiji.
The 2010 constitution prescribes that members of the public be involved in decision making at both county and national government level.
The TAKE PART acronym stands for “towards accountability through Kenyans empowerment in participation and active request for transparency.”