West Pokot is amongst the top ten marginalized counties in Kenya with a poverty rate of 68.7%. Participatory Budgeting is empowering residents to take control of budgetary decisions and to realize their development needs and priorities.
Problems and Purpose
After a nation-wide mandate to devolve governance and increase civic participation in planning, budgeting and service monitoring, West Pokot became one of the first counties to introduce Participatory Budgeting. The West Pokot government was keen to increase its citizen-outreach and participation in the planning and budget process by shifting the locus of meetings from the ward level to the remote sub-locations and encouraging the participation of women in what is largely a patriarchal society. The county also introduced the concept of prioritization of projects and voting to better align citizen needs to budget allocations. The ultimate goal of the PB program in West Pokot is to entrench the power of decision making in the budget process to the local citizens and to encourage the culturally marginalized groups like women, youth and people living with disability to articulate their needs thus altering the exclusion narrative.
Background History and Context
The Constitution of Kenya 2010 and supportive legal framework place a strong emphasis on transparency, accountability and citizen engagement. Precipitated largely by the violence following the 2007 presidential election, the Constitution creates multiple centers of power with the goal of ending “winner takes all” presidential elections. The Constitution seeks to rebalance executive, legislative and judicial powers and to increase the responsiveness, inclusiveness and efficiency of government and service delivery. In so doing it establishes a proper balance of power between the central government and the regions.
The introduction of a devolved system of government in Kenya following the March 2013 general elections brought major reforms in the political and administrative structure of the country. A new sub-national level of government was established, comprising 47 counties, each with an elected Governor, and county assembly responsible for a significant portion of public finances and service delivery previously under the purview of the central government. The Constitution re-balances power away from a strong presidency by creating 47 counties with elected governors, which together share a minimum of 15 percent of national revenues.
The shift from top-down to bottom-up system of decision making in government was meant to address long standing, deeply entrenched regional disparities and inequalities, and increase the responsiveness of government to citizens. The government had previously sought to engage citizens in decision-making on investment planning through decentralized funds such as the Local Authority Service Delivery Action Plans. However, these were not rooted in statutes and had their own challenges, which the new framework seeks to address. Whilst the legislative landscape is strong, providing clear principles for engaging citizens, the challenge for most counties has been how to translate these provisions to operational practice and meaningful action on the ground.
Around this time, Kenya experienced relatively steady socio-economic growth but regional disparities in poverty levels, human development indicators and access to services remained large. Devolution seeks to remedy the unequal distribution of investments and services that historically benefited some regions at the expense of others through shifting significant resources and responsibilities to semi-autonomous and locally accountable county governments. The counties are responsible for delivering health, agriculture, urban services and local infrastructure such as roads and public works. The assumption is that the counties are in a better position than the central government to deliver these services because they better understand the local context and with support of citizens are able to identify and articulate citizens’ needs.
Under the new financing arrangement, historically marginalized counties such as West Pokot receive larger transfers of resources from the national government, in comparison to the more privileged counties that include urban areas and productive agricultural regions. Under the Public Financial Management Act (2012), at least 30% of the county budget should be allocated to development priorities with citizens playing a key role in the budget formulation process.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The national government launched the National Capacity Building Framework (NCBF) in 2013 to guide the establishment of necessary capacities for devolved government. The National Government and in particular the Ministry of Devolution and Planning (MoDP) have both constitutional and statutory responsibilities to steer and coordinate capacity development for effective devolution. The NCBF has three pillars; training, technical assistance, and institutional strengthening. Stakeholders in devolution have largely couched their support in collaboration with the government around the NCBF. There are thus several initiatives that have been implemented under the NCBF to improve capacities of counties on effective citizen engagement, including the development of guidelines on public participation and civic education curricular amongst other. The World Bank through the Kenya Accountable Devolution Program has contributed to these capacity building initiatives. Through its social accountability program under the KADP, its objectives are to support the enabling environment for social accountability and to embed social accountability systems into devolved county structures in Kenya. The Kenya Participatory Budgeting Initiative implemented under the program with support from the World Bank’s global practice on governance, builds on ongoing practices supporting citizen engagement at the county levels. It seeks to strengthen the capacity of counties to engage citizens through introducing an innovative tool for a more intensive form of public participation.
The County Government of West Pokot played a central role in implementing the PB meetings. Following two successive trainings organized by the World Bank in October 2015 and January 2016, the county committed 32% of its development budget to be decided upon by citizens in PB meetings which equated to 12% of the entire county budget and developed a PB action plan that adapted the 10 step PB process to the county context.
The county executive, led by the planning and budget department, organizes training for all the stakeholders involved in the implementation process. These include ward administrators who are meeting facilitators, the Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) whose role is oversight and approval of the final budget, and ward managers who provide support to the MCAs.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The PB meetings were held at the lowest administrative unit within the county, the sub-location, therefore targeting all citizens at their locality. To manage the participation forums at sub-location level, some of the sub-locations were grouped together for joint meetings. In the larger sub-locations, that were a distance away from others, singular meetings were held. In effect the forums targeted all sub-locations.
The PB meetings deliberately target women’s participation. The West Pokot community is largely a patriarchal society, where women defer to the decisions made by their male counterparts. This has been reflected in past budget consultations, where very few women attended budget meetings and when they did they sat separately from the men and endorsed the projects that their male counterparts proposed without direct involvement. During the training process, the county asked the ward administrators to facilitate the engagement of women and the representation of their views in the selection of priorities. Through PB, there has been a concerted effort to mobilize women to attend the budget hearing process. Messages were sent to local women groups and churches and village elders encouraged to reach out to the women.
In reaching out to the broader population, the county prepares a schedule of the meeting dates and respective venues which is published in one national newspaper. Publicity on the meetings is also conducted through radio announcements in vernacular dialect using the local FM radio stations, announcements in churches, village notice boards, chief Baraza (meetings), and through the use of local leaders. For the more educated populace with access to the internet, the county uses social media platforms and its official county website.
Methods and Tools Used
This initiative is an example of participatory budgeting, a method of democratic innovation broadly described as "a decision-making process through which citizens deliberate and negotiate over the distribution of public resources." There are many benefits associated with participatory budgeting including increased civic and democratic education; increased government transparency; and an increased opportunity for participation by historically marginalized populations.
When West Pokot introduced participatory budgeting in the public hearing for the Financial Year 2016/17 budget it sought to address challenges the county faced in engaging citizens in the two previous budget cycles related to unstructured hearing processes, limited inclusivity and budget allocations being more aligned to sector preferences rather than citizen needs. During this time, public budget meetings were held at the ward level and this meant only those who could afford to travel to the ward level attended. For the public hearings for financial year 2015/16 budget, a total of 28 meetings were held (20 at ward level and 8 validation meetings), which drew 4, 779 participants. This implied that the communities nearer to where the public forums took place had a stronger representation and stronger voice while majority of citizens residing in the sub-locations were unreached and their needs and views excluded from the budget consultations.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Since the introduction of PB, two cycles of meetings have been held. The first phase took place between March and April 2016, and included over 160 meetings with the number of participants totaling 11,549 at sub-location level compared to the only 4,779 participants and 349 delegates who represented the views of the sub-location at the ward level budget validation meetings. The second phase ran between January and February 2017 and the county further widened the scope and held singular meetings in all of its 222 sub-locations. In each of the phases the meetings ran for a period of about three weeks. The meetings involved open discussions to generate project lists, prioritization of proposed projects through voting and/or consensus and selection of delegates to represent the community at the final decision (validation) meeting.
Citizens were provided with guidance on the kind of projects to select within the sectors for which counties are responsible. The meetings were facilitated by the ward administrators, often assisted by the chiefs and assistant chiefs. The MCA or the ward managers were present and the MCA would make the opening remarks. Following the opening remarks, an overview of projects that have been completed by the county or that are ongoing would be read out and the community allowed to provide feedback on these projects. Thereafter the community would go into the discussion of new projects. In the first phase of the PB, since some sub-localities were combined, the citizens would break out into groups as per their sub-location to come up with a long list of projects and then agree on the top three priorities out of the long list. Voting was mainly through popular acclaim, by raising of hands and the votes counted. The list of selected projects was written up in a submission form, signed by the local officials present, namely the chief and the citizen representative selected by the community to represent them at the final decision meeting, held at ward level. Community members select persons they believe will best articulate their priorities in the validation process. In the first phase of PB only one woman was selected to participate in the ward level meetings. To address this challenge, in the second phase of the PB process, the county improved the level of citizen representation to three specifically to include, a woman, youth and male representative.
At the final decision meeting, the county generated a list of all the project priorities selected at sub-location level for the final selection process. Each ward is allocated a budget ceiling of Kshs. 28 million (roughly 275,000 USD). The delegates have to prioritize the projects selected at sub-location level that will go into the ward level projects (each ward comprises several sub-locations). At this stage, final decisions are arrived at through deliberations, negotiations and consensus. The cost of each of the projects is provided to give guidance to the community delegates as they make final decisions. Once consensus is arrived at, a final list of ward projects selected is drawn up, signed by the representatives and county officials and submitted for inclusion in the draft budget. The County Assembly reviews and approves the budget. During the next citizen engagement process, the county provides feedback to citizens on the status of the projects selected: whether ongoing, or in the pipeline for implementation and reasons why some projects did not make it to the final budget.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The initial results and outcomes of the PB have been positive. Through PB, the county has increased opportunities for communities in remote locations to participate in expenditure prioritization. There has been a progressive increase in the number of citizens accessing budget meetings. In the second phase of the PB meetings for instance, 241 meetings were held at sub-location level, indicating a greater outreach to communities than in the first phase. The participation of women has been greatly impacted by consultations being held closer to their homes. Before PB only 2,257 women participated in budget consultation meetings, after PB this number increased to 10,173.
Women’s Participation in Budget Consultation Meetings in West Pokot
Before PB PB Meetings
Financial Year 2014 2015 2016 2017
No of Attendees 649 1,608 3,197 6,976
Total 2,257 10,173
The resultant effect of their participation is that investments and services are brought closer to their locality, fulfilling the goal of devolution to address regional disparities and inequalities. Some of the main priorities that communities elected include health facilities, accessibility to portable water, construction of cattle dips, and early childhood education facilities. Women would prioritize improvement in maternal health care services, accessibility to water and early childhood education. Men mostly focused on improvement of roads, construction of cattle dips and improvement of livestock and agricultural services. The projects that citizens selected in the PB process are currently being implemented or are in the pipeline.
PB has lent credibility to the budget hearing processes. Previous budget hearings consisted of unstructured processes where citizens would propose long lists of projects for which the budget and sector teams were at a loss of how to systematically select. In the end, the selection of projects to be implemented was left to the discretion of the government officials leaving communities frustrated when not all projects made it into the budget. The adoption of PB provides clear rules for identification, prioritization, selection and validation of projects. This has served to enhance the citizen’s understanding of resource constraints, better managed their expectations and boosted the credibility of the budget process.
The adoption of PB has facilitated the county’s compliance with the legal requirements for citizen engagement as enshrined in the Constitution and the County Government Act 2012.
PB has also facilitated budget approval mechanisms by involving the MCAs, who tended to disagree over resource allocation and the use of funds, in the deliberation process. Their participation in – and commitments made during – the PB meetings have allowed for swifter approval of budgets. Where previously the MCAs would deliberate on and change the allocations made in the approval process, following their engagement in the PB forums less changes were made to the proposed budgets.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
While the PB process is off to a good start in better aligning resources to citizen’s needs, some challenges remain such as furthering inclusion of marginalized segments of society such as youth and persons with disabilities and improving citizen engagement in the budget execution process. The County has plans to address this through running a separate PB process for the youth as is done in other regions such as the Scotland PB process and also implement other initiatives that are planned to improve citizen engagement in the county. Use of communication tools that would be effective in mobilizing the youth and setting aside specific budgets for youth projects and to address needs of persons with disabilities are some of the planned initiatives. The World Bank is planning to conduct an evaluation on the PB process at which point we will be able to provide more analysis and criticisms.
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County Government of West Pokot https://www.westpokot.go.ke/
Lead image: "Ward Validation Meeting in Pokot South Sub County: delegates from a Ward acknowledging their presence" County Government of West Pokot https://goo.gl/PUjDxK