By Andrew Munyoki
The devolved government Act 2012 enumerates the objects of devolution that birthed devolution in post independent Kenya.
Two key objects that stand out amongst close to a dozen other objects are one, the recognition of the right of Kenyan local communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development and two, giving powers of self governance to the people and enhancing the participation of the people in the exercise of the powers of the state and in making decisions affecting them.
These two objects cannot be better summed up in leadership and governance than in the aspect of citizen participation as governments (National and Counties) roll out their policies and programmes countrywide.
Basically, citizen or public participation is giving locals an opportunity to be seen and heard in the formulation and implementation of policies, laws and regulations ( including the approval of development proposals, projects and budgets) that affect their daily lives.
Citizens must however, understand their involvement in matters of (National / County) importance is not a privilege as misstated by a section of politicians but a constitutional entitlement and further, that they have an inherent right to petition their governments on any matter.
In return, the governments are required to respond expeditiously to any petition or challenge raised by the public and act accordingly.
While County governments have excelled in the involvement of their publics in the identification of various projects and policies like the County Integrated Development Plans (CIDP), County Fiscal Strategy Papers (CFSP) and a raft of other blue prints for implementation, there is still work to be done for locals to feel fully involved in the sharing of the county cake.
In most occasions, a public participation forum is driven by government experts in the particular topical areas with the citizens playing the audience role.
And in the event of a technical subject, a good number of the audience only remains passive as mere spectators in a game whose rules they do not understand.
The begging question therefore is, is citizen participation just a dispatcher – recipient information play only?
Definitely not. It must transcend information sharing to involvement of all participants. Whether the citizens are literate or not is a different matter altogether.
Citizen Involvement must never be seen by administrators as ceding of their official authority to the citizens while at the same time citizens ought to remain careful not to appear as to deliberately frustrate a rather smooth exercise with farfetched proposals, responses and recommendations because it is such that educe mistrust in governance.
Citizen Involvement will enhance the legitimacy of any government, foster transparency; encourage openness and prudence in the management of government resources among them budgetary allocations and the utilization of other state resources.
Citizen participation is therefore the glue that binds county governments and their publics during formulation and implementation of policies and legislations, alongside development projects and other programmes during sharing of the county cake.
The much awaited Public participation forum for development of the Kitui County Integrated Development Plan( CIDP) for the period 2022- 2027 took place across the county’s 40 wards’ headquarters today.
A key event in the county government’s calender, the forums signalled the start of the development of the county administration’s long term development plan for a period of 5 years.
The CIDP is a combined blueprint listing all projects and programs earmarked for implementation by the county government as proposed by the residents of each of the county’s 247 villages.
And true to the spirit of public participation, Kitui citizens gathered at their ward headquarters to submit their prioritised projects and programmes for inclusion into the CIDP today.
The proposed projects and /or programs fell into the priority categories of water, health care, education, roads, agriculture, trade, tourism and security alongside other socio-economic interventions.
Some specific projects and programs championed for implementation or completion by residents across the county include the flagship Kangu Kangu water project in Kitui South, construction of sports stadia in several wards, upgrading of major health facilities and renovation of others, construction of new ECDE classes in primary schools, construction of earth dams and sand dams, extension of water pipelines, provision of seeds to farmers and extension of agricultural services to rural farmers.
Others include extension of electrification to rural market centers, establishment of ICT centers, equipping of TVETs and improvement of the county road network through expansion, grading, construction of drifts, culverts, slabs as well as routine maintenance of the rural roads.
After publication, the CIDP will guide the development of the county for a period of 5 years starting 2022 until 2027.