Public participation aborts as county officials print few copies of draft bill

A deserted entrance to the Siaya County Government offices. Public participation to discuss Finance Bill 2019 ended prematurely after members of the public accused county officers of providing fewer copies of the draft bill. [File, Standard]

A public meeting to discuss the county’s draft Finance Bill 2019 was brought to a halt after members of the public protested over what they termed as lack of preparedness by the officials from the county government.

According to the residents, the meeting which was scheduled to kick off at 10 am, started past midday following a drama that ensued for close to one hour as the participants demanded to be given enough copies of the document.

Pleas by Bondo sub-county administrator Mr Richard Odhiambo to have the participants share the few copies fell on deaf ears.

While a section of participants declined to sign the attendance list which was being circulated at the meeting held at the Bondo county Hall; some walked out.

 “It is very clear that you were not prepared for this exercise and it is my sincere appeal on behalf of everybody here that you go back and schedule for another meeting when you have enough copies of the document,” said Silvanus Ogina, a resident of Bondo town.

The public engagement forum was also disrupted in Gem and Ugunja sub-counties while in Siaya sub-county the function attracted low turnout.

In Bondo, the few copies, according to the county officials were to be shared by a hall full of participants drawn from the entire Bondo Sub-county which covers West Yimbo, Central Sakwa, North Sakwa, Yimbo East, West Sakwa and South Sakwa wards.

Most participants were irked by the delay that rocked the meeting after the team from Siaya arrived for the meeting which was scheduled to start at 8 am a few minutes past midday.

The public participation forums ran concurrently across the six sub-counties of Siaya as the county sought to review revenue levies for land rates, business permits among other charges targeting to boost revenue basket of the county government of Siaya for the 2019/2020 financial year.

Those who spoke to The Standard accused the county government's finance department of failing to circulate the draft early enough so that they could have informed contribution.

"It is sad that the public is only being used to rubber-stamp the wish of the county officers. It is not possible to contribute meaningfully to a document made available to you late on the day in a rushed process," said Rodgers Ochieng, a human rights defender.

According to Lawrence Omondi, a member of a civil society organization in the county said the document was framed to enhance county government revenue but was bound to discourage investment and entrepreneurship.

"As is comparable with last year's, it hasn't been demonstrated that the money that the authorities collected was to be channeled towards the expansion and creation of a favourable business environment. Talk of parking fees each year with no parking lots is case in point," he said.