Suffering from elite capture and low representation, Makueni County developed and implemented a new framework for Participatory Budgeting focusing on the village and sub-Ward levels. The new framework has increased participation and representation of lower-class individuals.
Problems and Purpose
Citizen consultations during the 2014/15 budget cycle were characterized by elite capture and low representation. In response, Makueni County in Kenya developed a framework to facilitate budget deliberations and development discussions below the Ward level to include more citizens. The new approach initiated in the FY2015/16 budgeting cycle would start from the village; to village clusters; to sub-Wards; and then to the Ward levels. The Participatory Budgeting Framework facilitates sharing and prioritization of projects where approximately over 135,000 people or 15% of the population is involved in determining the development priorities for every financial year. The framework has significantly changed the citizen-government interactions and influenced decision making away from the elite to the needy people at the local levels.
Background History and Context
The Kenyan Constitution espouses public participation as a national value (Article 10), and provides that all the state and public officers are bound to uphold this value whenever they are involved in making or implementing public policy decisions. It is in this context that since the establishment of county governments following the general elections of 2013, devolved governments embarked to identify the appropriate frameworks and mechanisms for ensuring public participation in budgeting and other governance processes.
In 2013, Makueni County identified the need for civic education and embarked on training three civic educators from each of the 30 Wards. The team of three civic education interlocutors from each ward were then mandated to go and train at least 30 other community members in their Wards. In essence, by the end of the process the county had 990 civic education and public participation interlocutors that were instrumental in providing basic civic awareness on rights and responsibilities, articulating the key constitutional provisions for citizen engagement to the public; and mobilizing communities for public participation.
The county initiated budget consultation processes that considered the public views and approved projects from the long lists provided during the 30 budget consultations held at the Ward level in 2014/15 budget preparations. The ethos that guided the county is Andu Mbee, o kila nyumba kalila translated as “People first, and every house should get some milk” which means that every household will have equal opportunity for the shared resources. Subsequently, on an annual basis, the people had opportunity to choose projects that meet their needs and also shared the resources equally across the Wards. Each Ward was allocated an equal proportion of the development fund.
While an important first step, the Makueni budget consultations in the 2014/15 budget cycle were characterized by the following weaknesses:
- Limited reach: The budget consultation processes would only take place at one venue in each of the 30 wards. While the attendance at the single ward meeting was good, it was not significant enough to capture the critical voices of the poor and marginalized in the county. The process largely benefitted the elites and gate-keepers in the county.
- Long lists: The facilitation of the meetings was such that the public would share all their development/projects proposals without regard of the limits of the budget. This led to long lists of proposals that would not adequately articulate what was really people’s priorities.
- Political interference: since the process had not received political buy-in by the ward representatives – Members of County Assembly – it was difficult to get the budget approved without major interference and adjustments of proposed projects.
- No feedback: The county did not have a mechanism or process of providing feedback to the public on the projects had finally been allocated resources.
The PB Unit in the Department of Communities and Local Government, UK Government (DCLG UK Govt) was the lowest Political representation unit where the Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) are elected from.[*]
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
In October 2015, World Bank conducted a conference where the county governments officials shared their strategies, innovations, and challenges that they encountered in ensuring effective public participation in budget making. This was followed by a design workshop in January 2016 that was targeted for counties that felt the need to improve their budget consultations by incorporating participatory budgeting methodology. They signed an agreement that they would:
- Commit a portion of their development budget to the Participatory Budget
- Provide two focal point people/staff to fully engage in the process.
The World Bank, through the Kenya Participatory Budgeting Initiative (KPBI) under the Kenya Accountable Devolution Program (KADP) committed to provide technical support and capacity building to the two counties, namely West Pokot and Makueni that signed the agreement for the phase one support.
The County Government of Makueni saw the need to make the public participation more effective by reaching a larger proportion of the community and also in providing a platform for those whose voice is usually unheard. Participatory Budgeting methodology was considered one way of addressing the weaknesses and ensuring meaningful public participation in policy and budget decisions.
The resources that the County Government of Makueni set aside for participatory budgeting were:
- At least 25% of the development budget
- Continued engagement with community and other stakeholders
- Mainstream the PB process with other activities
- Face-to-face meetings/public forums
- Time to learn and develop (not reinvent the wheel, build on our practice, and learn from elsewhere)
- Spend more time reflecting and improving
- Defined roles and the skills required by each of these key actors, i.e. county officials, administrators, politicians, citizens
- Public participation knowledge and skills among the responsible county officers
- Fair, transparent, accountable, legal, appropriate actors
- Political goodwill
In addition to the above resources, the county government covered recurrent costs related to transport, snacks, and drinks for the public officials and citizen participants.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
To address the challenges of elite capture and low representation of citizens’ voice, the county organized budget deliberations and development discussions three levels below the wards. The new budgeting process is open to all and the framework has provided opportunity for almost 15% of the county to participate. It is characterized by what Souza (1998), emphasizes as one of his guiding principles: “citizens are entitled to participate including community organizations having no special status or prerogative in this regard.” This approach has ensured that there are no gatekeepers nor marginalization of certain sections of the community. The new approach initiated in the FY2015/16 budgeting cycle was structured as follows: moving from the village, to village clusters, to sub-wards, and then to the ward levels.:
- Village People's Forum - 3450 units. (Each to elect a development committee of 11 members)
- Village Cluster People's Forum - 315 units. (Each elect a development committee of 11 members)
- Sub-Ward People's Forum - 60 Forums. (Each elect a development committee of 11)
- Ward People's Forum - 30 forums (each elect a development committee of 11 members)
- Sub-County People's Forum - 6 forums (each elect a development committee of 11 members)
- County People's Forum - (1,000 delegates)
Methods and Tools Used
Participatory Budgeting (PB) programs are innovative policymaking processes through which citizens are directly involved in making policy decisions. As Wampler further elaborates, participatory budgeting challenges social and political exclusion by providing low-income people and and other traditionally excluded political actors with opportunities to make policy decisions. PB is a process that promotes public learning and active citizenship, while also facilitating reform in administrative apparatus.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
This participatory budgeting framework on average facilitates sharing and prioritization of projects where approximately over 135,000 people or 15% of the population is involved in determining the development priorities for every financial year. The attached table provides the targeted achievements of the process against various parameters. Please see attached PDF for an alternate version of this table.
The Development Committees (DCs) formed are ad hoc and only involved in the budgeting cycle for the fiscal year. The DC members may be reappointed in the next fiscal year, for at least 3 terms.
Decision on development budget: ideally, participatory budgeting should provide an open platform for all to engage in making decisions on a public budget. The Ward forums make decisions on a proportion of the development budget. In Makueni County, at least 32% of the development budget was apportioned to the ward-based development projects in FY2016/17. These amounts were divided equally across the 30 wards. In FY2016/17 the communities in each ward made decisions on how to spend approximately USD 150,000 in development projects at the wards.
Thematic Focus: PB processes can be defined by geographical area (whether that’s neighbourhood or larger) or by theme.[*] The social and political exclusion that existed before was challenged as low income and traditionally excluded political actors were given the opportunity to make policy decisions. The deliberative forums were held for thematic/sectoral groups that have unique service needs and challenges. These included people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHIV/A), people with disability (PWD) and youths. In addition, other meetings were held specifically in the town centres to consider the development proposals for these towns and urban centres.
Technical evaluation informs community decisions process: Following the selection of projects at the sub-ward forums, a team of economists and technical officials from the responsible sectors assessed them. The teams visited the sites and reviewed the proposed projects and project sites. Some of the proposed projects were ongoing, some were upgrades of existing projects and some were new. For instance, a dispensary upgraded to a health facility by constructing some patient wards. The technical evaluation provided feedback on the projects that were feasible and those that were not, as well as a rough estimate of the funding required. This information was shared during the Ward PB forums that helped the communities in deciding the final projects which were viable.
Strong teamwork and ownership: Whereas hosting 60 sub-ward meetings seemed a daunting task, the Makueni County government officials handled these forums in a week or two. This is because PB is all pervasive and owned by all (officials) and not just a select team (or department). The staff formed 10 teams which implies that each team could handle at 6 meetings. This approach was repeated for the subsequent 30 ward forums (as they cascade upwards), where each team would cover 3 ward forums.
Involvement of citizens in oversight in the implementation phase: For every approved project, a project management committee (PMC) comprising of community members from the project area would be established. These PMC members would be elected in a public forum specifically called to inform the community about the project and the implementation plan. Ward administrators and the technical officers responsible for the sector/project facilitated the public forum. The involvement of citizen in oversight role through PMCs has promoted transparency and accountability, and minimized incidences of incomplete or poorly implemented projects.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
1. Continuous improvement: Participatory budgeting processes are not one-off events. Rather, they are repeated periodically. In Makueni County, PB is carried out every financial year. The repetitive nature of PB allows for continuous review and improvement of the process and the rules of engagement. In the case of Makueni County the improvements observed since 2015/16 to 2017/18 (three budgeting cycles) related to: i) further stratification of communities into thematic groups to ensure effective deliberations and decision making ii) technical evaluation done prior to the ward forum and therefore communities are provided additional information to facilitate decision making; iii) continuous increase in ward level budget from 25%, to 32% to 50% respectively in the three years.
2. Continuous increase in ward level budget: Due to the success of the process, and the governments saw the need to provide a greater opportunity for community priority projects and the PB proportion of the budget was increased from 25%, to 32% and to 50% respectively in the three years of 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18. The increase in allocation is also due to the fact that many of the ward projects may be implemented beyond one financial year and therefore there is need to provide resources for both new and ongoing projects.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
1. Low investment projects: The process has in some cases led to the selection of many low investment projects at the ward levels for instance, in many cases community member seek support for construction of classrooms and dispensaries. In the first two years, the focus was largely on these “immediate needs” projects, but with time, communities are beginning to thinking more strategically on projects that can unlock greater potential in their areas – particularly water projects such as dams and boreholes.
2. Limited Sectoral Coverage: The community preferred sectors of education, water and health have more demands as they form the highest number of projects identified by the citizen. This is bound to skew the development process at the expense of other sectors. However, it was noted that this challenge might be short-lived as the neglected sectors are with time identified. This challenge has also been addressed through the newly established thematic meetings that tend to select projects and development interventions that “territorially organized groups” may not identify.
3. Feedback on the final signed off projects: The county government has not established a clear mechanism for providing a feedback to the communities on the projects that are signed off when the budget is approved. While the final approved budget may be available on the county’s website, many community members involved in the PB processes are rural communities and rarely access the website. In addition, even though there is some feedback to the communities on the approved projects during the selection of PMCs, the feedback is limited to the communities in close proximity to the project area. The selection of PMCs also takes place much later during the implementation phase. The list of approved projects could be posted on notice boards and printed reports made accessible at Ward administrator offices as soon as the budget is approved.
4. High number of projects and slow implementation: The PB process has inevitably led to high number of ward-based projects that have not been completed within the budget cycle calendar. Due to this high number of projects, there are many ongoing projects whose benefits having not been realized lead to selection of similar projects as the need have not been met. Therefore, deeper analysis of the progress in implementation, and expected benefits should be incorporated in the deliberations at the PB forums to ensure no duplication of projects or interventions. Information of the ongoing and completed projects should be incorporated in all the PB forums in order for the communities to make informed decisions. The county government has established a projects M&E dashboard and GIS maps of the county projects and these could be key inputs into the PB process.
Government of Makueni County (February 2017), “Public Participation Handbook for Development Committees and Project Management Committees,” Government of Makueni.
 Wampler, B. (2000), “A guide to Participatory Budgeting,” accessed at https://www.commdev.org/userfiles/files/1613_file_GPB.pdf
 Peixoto, T. (2012), “Participatory Budgeting: Seven Defining Characteristics” accessed at https://democracyspot.net/2012/09/12/participatory-budgeting-seven-defining-characteristics/
 Sousa, B. (1998). “Participatory Budgeting in Porto Alegre: Toward a Redistributive Democracy.” Politics and Society [PDF], cited in Peixoto (2012).
World Bank Report: Inclusive and effective citizen engagement: participatory budgeting - Makueni and West Pokot counties https://goo.gl/bCoh58
World Bank Working Paper: Participatory budgeting in Kenya: counties - Makueni, West Pokot, Baringo, Kwale, and Elgeyo Marakwet https://goo.gl/awb197
[*] PB Unit in the Department of Communities and Local Government, UK Government (DCLG UK Govt.)