How Nyamira county has embedded public participation in development plans

A public participation exercise at Kabonyoru ward, Nyamira county recently. PHOTO/Courtesy.
A public participation exercise at Kabonyoru ward, Nyamira county recently. PHOTO/Courtesy.

By Isaac Bw’Onyancha

The creation of the Nyamira county third County Integrated  Development Plan (CIDP 2023-27) is currently underway and in earnest. 

The entire process involves such steps as reviewing the previous CIDP and the sector-specific performance, and conducting and incorporating community priorities through rigorous public participation forums such as public forums, memoranda and events.

The rationale of public participation in the entire process is based on the constitutional foundation, which places sovereign power on the people of Kenya. 

This power has been delegated to state actors at the county level. 

This sovereignty must be respected and institutionalized in all processes of governance.

Public participation benefits

Engaging in public participation allows the public to exercise their constitutional right, and the decision-making process becomes more representative. 

Openness to the public provides a platform in which they present their concerns. 

Insufficient public engagement limits the power of the people to participate in democratic governance.

Moreover, citizen participation improves transparency and accountability.

The public is able to critically engage in the social, political, cultural, economic, and environmental impacts of policies, laws and development plans. 

It gives the public a say in deciding how costs and benefits will impact different segments of society. 

Public participation also ensures that governments are held accountable for their actions and are responsive to the interest of citizens. 

Participation also enhances public confidence and support of the decision-making processes.

But more importantly, public participation enables governments to understand and appreciate different opinions and concerns. 

Before policies are approved, they undergo a comprehensive review and revision, thus ensuring that policies, laws and development plans are robust. 

Participation provides additional skills, knowledge, concerns, and ideas that might have been overlooked had the process been limited to government officials. 

Overall, this should result in better decisions and greater ownership by all stakeholders.

When public participation is well conducted, as constitutionally provided for, it helps alleviate social conflicts by taking care of the interests of different stakeholders and building consensus. 

Investment in public participation at an early stage minimizes the number and magnitude of social conflicts arising while implementing policies, laws and development plans.

This ultimately has a net effect of enhancing legitimacy without citizens becoming suspicious and feeling manipulated. 

Otherwise, any mistrust would undermine effective dialogue and create suspicion. Public participation, therefore, legitimizes the entire implementation process.

It should be born in mind that public participation is a mandatory and continuous process in county governance. 

Precisely that’s why it was necessary to establish structures, steps and mechanisms that are inclusive and easy to follow for the county government to adopt in facilitating participation. 

In Nyamira county

These are the structures, channels and platforms that most of Nyamira county departments, particularly Finance and Planning, have exploited in their execution of public participation programs with ease.

A key aspect of performing county functions is planning and budgeting on an annual, medium, and long-term basis. 

This process entails allocating public resources to what has been planned in the county. 

The law requires that the public participates in planning Section 115, County Government Act (CGA) 2012, and Public Finance Management Act (Section 207, PFM Act 2012).

Public finance management includes implementation and evaluation.

PFM Act 2012

The planning and budgeting process is provided in Section 125 of the PFM Act, 2012 to include:

a. Integrated development planning process, which shall include both long-term and medium-term planning;

b. Planning and establishing financial and economic priorities for the county over the medium term;

c. Making an overall estimation of the county government’s revenues and expenditures;

d. Adoption of the County Fiscal Strategy Paper (CFSP);

e. Preparing budget estimates for the county government and submitting estimates to the County Assembly;

f. Approving of the estimates by the County Assembly;

g. Enacting an appropriation law and any other laws required to implement the county government’s budget;

h. Implementing the county government’s budget; and

i. Accounting for and evaluating the county government’s budgeted revenues and expenditures.

Note that the County Government Act provides for county planning in Part XI. 

Citizen participation in the county planning processes is mandatory and is facilitated through the provision to the public of unambiguous information on any matter under consideration in the planning process. This includes:

a. Clear strategic environment assessment;

b. Clear environment impact assessment reports;

c. Expected development outcomes; and

d. Development options and their cost implication.

It is worth mentioning that Section 108 of the County Government Act provides that each county shall have a five-year CIDP with clear goals and objectives; an implementation plan with clear outcomes; provisions for monitoring and evaluation; and clear reporting mechanisms. 

The importance of CIDPs is indicated by Section 104 of the County Government Act, which states that a county government shall plan for the county, and no public funds shall be appropriated outside a planning framework developed by the County Executive Committee and approved by the County Assembly. 

Further, note that what applies to the CIDP also applies to the County Annual Development Plan (ADP).

Recent public participation

In the just concluded public participation program on the third generation CIDP conducted in the twenty wards of Nyamira county, the public was keen on whether:

  • There are the economic, physical, social, environmental, and special planning priorities of the county;
  • Priorities were set from the village level up to the County Executive level;
  • Social mapping was carried out to spell out the exact demographics of the county;
  • The CIDP mirrored national and development goals;
  • The CIDP was reviewed through annual development plans;
  • Resources are available to implement the CIDP;
  • People involved in the CIDP process were identified;
  • Projects were identified, appraised, and selected, as well as indicated how and when they will be implemented.
  • The monitoring and evaluation framework of the CIDP was identified

Proposals from public

During the four days of engaging with the public, a vast number of issues were proposed from the ground, which will be considered appropriately in the subsequent stages given the other references such as the Governor’s manifesto, the national government’s development thematic areas, Short-term Development Goals and Vision 2030. 

Among areas that the public seemed to be very concerned about were health, education, roads and security.

Upcoming plans

We envisage having our Public Participation Policy in place to execute this crucial mandate effectively. 

We have identified nine policy areas, highlighting policy concerns and the policy standards to address the concerns. 

Past experiences provide gaps that this policy will address.

These gaps are largely the result of inadequate access to information by the public, weak capacity of the citizens and duty bearers in public participation, limited civic education and insufficient coordination of the processes, inadequate funding of public participation, inadequate opportunities for public engagement in planning and budgeting, lack of mechanisms for identification and inclusion of the marginalized groups.

The policy resonates well with the post-2010 Government of Kenya policy orientation, particularly with respect to Kenya’s Draft Policy on Public Participation.

It is firmly anchored in the Constitution, Kenya’s development blueprint, and Vision 2030, both of which define how the government sector is to be structured and run to facilitate the attainment of effective and sustainable public participation. 

YOU CAN ALSO READ: Informed citizenry, a virtue of self-governance

The policy’s objectives will be pursued and achieved within this wider network of government policy and legislation orientation. 

The writer is the Director In-Charge of Civic Education and Public Participation, Nyamira County Government.

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