Lack of public participation killing devolution, Siaya leaders decry

Members of the Siaya County Assembly and civil society groups say poor public participation and accountability were posing the biggest threat to devolution.

They said county governments had failed to make impacts on the lives of the people because millions of shillings had been sank in projects which were not a priority to the beneficiaries.

Speaking in Siaya town on Wednesday during the launch of ‘Citizen Watch for Good Governance’ campaign by a civil society group CIAG-Kenya, the leaders said poor consultation with communities had led to a high number of stalled projects.

Nominated MCAs Ben Adala and Shirley Irene said that there was a disconnect on projects already implemented and service delivery, and gave an example of situations where the government constructed health facilities but could not equip them.

The leaders said that many projects proposed by would-be beneficiaries in villages were struck off the budget by the executive without consultations.

MCA Adala gave an example of how his fellow MCAs insisted on constructing more dispensaries and health facilities that lacked equipment and staff.

"During budgeting, we miss out on the real problem facing our people. Civic education has not been felt in this county and thus we need to work together as a team to help make devolution a success," said Mr. Adala who represents the youth.

They said properly organised public participation and civic education was the missing link in the service delivery in counties.

Ms Shirley said most residents kept off public participation meetings due to apathy caused by the failure by the executive to implement projects proposed in earlier proposals.

"We need to address this apathy caused by a disconnect between the executive and the taxpayers. Our people are getting tired of attending public participation only for their project ideas to be excluded from the final budgets," she said.

Human Rights activist and the CIAG-K’s Chris Owalla said the Citizen Watch for Good governance will help the people understand their rights and engage the county government, especially in the budget-making process.

He said the project will be rolled out in Alego, Gem and Ugenya sub-counties.

"We will talk to the people on matters of civil education. We want residents to start doing follow-ups on how the county funds are being utilized to change their lives," said Owalla.

Mr Owalla raised concerns on micro-projects that had been done by the county government and had stalled.

But the Siaya County Director of Budget and Planning, Mr Jack Odinga argued that they have always done advertisements on public participation but the quality of engagement remained poor due to apathy.

Mr Odinga noted that there was a need to strengthen the relationships between the counties and the civil society organisations and counties to improve civic education. 

"Our people show up for these public participations but the kind of engagements are very poor. We are working on the issue of civic education, which must open up the minds of our people," said Odinga.