Counties urged to change approach to public participation

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Capacity development coordinator Shem Wachira speaking to the press
Civil society development coordinator Shem Wachira speaking to the press

County governments in the North Rift region have been urged to decentralize public participation fora to the village level in order to get more views from locals on policy formulation. The civil society Urban Development platform noted that most of the vital forums that shape governance, including on the budget-making process, are held in urban areas limiting the number of participants who give their input.

The society has called upon all stakeholders involved in the budget formulation to consider all aspects that shape the society and community, and being more inclusive to avoid dissenting views and complaints.

 

Speaking during a workshop that brought together civil society groups, youth and women groups in Kitale, the Civil Society Development co-ordinator Shem Wachira argued that most leaders have neglected the public when it comes to public participation, especially issues dealing with the budget formulation. “We want County governments to emulate the County government of Makueni by holding public participation forums at the grassroots level,” he said.

He cited a case in Trans Nzoia, where the purchase of land belonging to a referral hospital that is under construction elicited mixed reactions from residents, and he blamed the County administration for failing to involve the public in the land purchase idea.

Furthermore, he said the County government uses the wrong means to communicate public forums, “Locals aren’t fine with the decision by County governments to publicize public fora on local newspapers, yet many residents don’t even read newspapers,” said Wachira. He said it may be a ploy by County administrations to trick residents and kepe them away from public participation fora.

The Justice and Peace centre, which operates in Trans Nzoia and West Pokot Counties, also had a representative, Programmes Officer George Okinyi. He said the County government must use the convenient channels to disseminate information.

Trans Nzoia Women Caucus Director Immaculate Shamala also called for consideration of all participants’ views who take part during public fora to ensure decisions reached are well supported and popular. “We wish to have a situation where the citizens generate development ideas as opposed to them being used as mere rubber stamps for already set formalities,” said Ms. Shamala.