Ways of making political parties accountable to the people of Kenya

Over the past 25 years, Kenya’s political landscape has undergone a major metamorphosis, culminating in one of Africa’s most vibrant multiparty democracies with over 66 approved and active political parties. This development has not only revolutionised politics, its effects have had far-reaching and transformative consequences on how we conduct our socio-economic activities. Political parties play a pivotal role in society because they are the vehicles used to select or elect leaders who represent us.

It therefore follows that the manner in which parties conduct their activities before, during and after elections will have inevitable consequences on how the country surges forward or regresses. Like any other public organisation, if political parties or their leadership is not transparent and accountable, they are likely to deny the public quality leadership that the country yearns for. It is therefore important for Kenya, as a modern and progressive democracy, to embrace tools that will ensure parties deliver on their mandate since they are funded by public funds.

Checks

Parties ought to be subjected to periodic or continuous monitoring and evaluation (M&E) as a key intervention measure to enhance service delivery, efficiency and best practices. Embracing M&E is not just for purposes of accountability but will also enable the parties examine themselves internally so as to continuously improve their management and systems and hence avoid the high level of attrition. This is evidenced by the fact that during nominations, nearly all the registered political parties become active, inviting aspirants to seek nominations through their parties, but only a paltry five or less of them make it as parliamentary parties.

Parliamentary parties are those whose nominated candidates manage to win parliamentary or county seats. These are the ones that qualify for funding and ought to be subjected to public scrutiny through use of measurement tools such as M&E. In order to avoid the pitfalls that have seen many parties collapse prematurely and indeed for the same entities to be able to stand the test of time, parties require strong principles, systems and policies to govern and guide their operations. This is why M&E is key to an institution’s survival and relevance. It is the information and knowledge gathered through M&E that organisations are able to build themselves into strong and formidable institutions.

Although the Government has made efforts through the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties to restore sanity and avoid a situation where parties operate like rag-tag entities, proper, open and accountable systems created through M&E will make the electorate develop faith and genuinely seek membership in such “polished” parties.

Mushrooming

Hopefully, this will help mitigate against the current scenario where every election cycle has witnessed the emergence of new political parties which disappear as soon as elections are over, a situation that has denied Kenyans the opportunity to build strong and lasting institutions. Embracing M&E will ultimately translate to good governance and best practices in the country’s political and democratization processes. In fact, the current political predicament, pitting the two key presidential candidates and their respective parties, should have been handled as a contest between the two main parties instead of being viewed as a duel between the two individuals. However, this would only have been possible if party governance structures were strong and not subject to the whims of their presidential candidates.

This is where monitoring and evaluation comes in handy as a tool to help parties develop strong policy foundations that offer valuable guidance in situations of conflict or negotiations. Parliamentary political parties that benefit from taxpayer’s money should have their operations monitored and their outcomes evaluated to ascertain whether they actually serve their mandate.For instance, it is only through an M&E exercise that we will be able to establish how inclusive the parties are in promoting gender equity, ascertain if they created suitable opportunities for vulnerable groups such as youth, women and the disadvantaged to actively participate in party leadership and seek elective positions without bias.

Finally, through an efficient M&E platform, leaders, policy makers and the government will be in a position to show proof that their intended goals were attained. This will also create an opportunity for citizens to demand accountability from their leaders. M&E also makes it easier for the collection and collation of information suitable for informed decision making and hence improved accountability by leaders. Accessing the same information equally leads to a more empowered electorate able to make more rational decisions.

Mr Waruingi is Managing Director; Advantech [email protected]; www.advantench.co.ke

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