By Derrick Makhandia
TI-Kenya’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Center (ALAC) Nairobi has been supporting various initiatives to promote impactful public participation. The ALAC office has supported several social audits in different counties as a platform to enhance citizen concerns and influence over government projects. These audits have also been supplemented by various public outreaches geared towards empowering citizens with the knowledge, skills and tools necessary to participate in governance. The outreaches utilize local partners, participatory theatre and local language to spread messages such as encouraging citizens to participate in governance, reporting and fighting corruption as well as playing oversight on leaders.
ALAC appreciates the nature of public participation as a two-way interchange. ALAC has not only focused on enhancing citizen involvement but also on strengthening government ability to conduct efficient public participation.
Through this strategy, the ALAC Nairobi office partnered with Machakos county to provide training on public participation strategies to key staff. The ALAC office has since trained sub- county and ward administrators from Masinga, Yatta and Machakos Central sub-counties in October and November 2019. The prioritization of sub-county and Ward Administrators was based on their key mandate, which is to enhance, promote and facilitate public participation in the county. Ward Administrators serve as a bridge between the County leadership and citizens in the grassroots.
The training took the participants through basic public participation principles, legal foundations, necessary skills and tools of public participation needed by the duty bearer. The session also allowed ALAC to identify challenges and obstacles faced by the participants in carrying out their mandate. The trainings were also attended by key civil society representatives from the respective sub-counties who promote and participate in public participation platforms. This allowed them to interact with the ward administrators and develop working relations with them which would benefit both parties especially in mobilization and education.
Public participation is a key element in democracy, good governance and development. It is a principle that is firmly anchored in the Constitution of Kenya. One of overwhelming submissions made to the Committee of Experts during the development of the current constitution was the fact that the ordinary mwananchi had no voice in governance and developmental issues. In response, the 2010 Constitution emphasized on the importance of public participation in wide aspects of governance.
TI-Kenya intends to continue this engagement to cover all sub-counties in Machakos other key officers all the way to the county leadership. We also hope to expand the program to other counties. We believe that joint partnerships, understanding and leveraging on each other’s strengths will enhance good governance which seeks, values and listens to the voice of the people