Marsabit County Public Budget Participatory is a budget decision-making process that promotes good governance by strengthening the citizen’s capacity through bottom-up participatory mechanism. It takes place annually in the 20 civic wards of Marsabit County, Kenya (CGM, 2018).
Problems and Purpose
Gender discrimination, failure to identify community needs, and lack of accountability were problems plaguing a one-sided budget process in the pastoral communities of Marsabit County, Kenya. Before implementing a civic engagement process, budget decisions were made in boardrooms with only men and village elders who failed to identify the needs of the community. In other words, the process was not inclusive of the community. Youth, women, and individuals with disabilities were locked out of the decision-making process. As a result, the needs of these groups were not included in the proposed list of projects to receive funding. The budget process took place behind closed doors with little accountability to the community. Initially community members were not told the budget allocation. This led to high levels of corruption with senior government officials and politicians implementing their “pet” projects and then diverting the rest of the funds to their benefit.
The purpose of the civic engagement process is to improve the budget decision making process so the voices of the community are represented. Men, women, youths and people with disabilities must be involved in the budget decision-making process. This process challenges the traditional gender roles where men are the only decision makers in the pastoral communities. This process promotes the involvement of teenage mothers who conceived children out of wedlock, mature women and youth to participate in decision-making. The process helps the community to identify and prioritize their needs to enable them make decisions on which projects to be funded. This participatory process will provide transparency by publishing budget allocations to the wider community. Thus, the process will lessen the opportunity for corruption by government officials and politicians to carve out money for their “special projects.”
Background History and Context
In the previous years before promulgation of the new constitution in 2010, Kenya was governed under one central government where decisions were made centrally without involving grassroots efforts. This led to marginalization of certain regions, unequal distribution of government resources and high rates of tribalism in allocation of government resources. The new Kenyan Constitution of 2010 promotes transparency, accountability and public participation as guiding principles for public financial management. After promulgation of the new constitution, Kenya adopted devolved governance system and has currently 47 county governments. Since the establishment of the county governments each devolved system has to comply with legal requirements for public participation, which is included in the County Government Act (2012) and the Public Finance Management Act. This is in the spirit of promoting bottom-up participatory mechanism through decentralization of decision-making process. The participatory budget process was implemented immediately after the creation of county government in the year 2013/2014. The initial phase had no structure of implementation and was thereafter fully implemented in the year 2017/2018. This process is now annually conducted before the beginning of every new financial year.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The World Bank through the Kenya Participatory Budgeting Initiative (KBPI) that is being implemented under its Kenya Accountable Devolution Program provides training, technical assistance and institutional strengthening to County Government of Marsabit.
Concern Worldwide has developed a socially transformative approach called Community Conversations (CC) and helps the County Government of Marsabit to adopt the approach and use it during the public budget participatory process. The county government of Marsabit through its finance department organizes and implements the annual public participation process.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
According to Marsabit County Government website (2018), Marsabit County has a total area of 70,961.2 Sqkm1. It is the largest and among the marginalized counties in the country in terms of landmass. Marsabit County has a poor transportation network and is sparsely populated. According to the National Population and Housing Census, the county had a population of 291,166 in the last census conducted in the year 2009.
The budgeting proposal process is structured into 6 forums; Sub-location, Location, Wards, Sub- County, Executives and County Assembly. Marsabit County has 112 Sub-locations, 58 locations, 20 wards, and 4 sub-County. In every Sub-location a general community meeting is organized. This meeting is open to everyone, that is, all community members (men, women, youth and people with disability) living in that sub-location. Any member of the community within that sub-location is invited to attend to the meeting. The community then elects representatives that will represent them in the locational meetings. At the location meeting representatives are again selected that will attend the ward level meeting. The representatives from county executives and those of the community who are drawn from sub- location and location meet at the ward level forum. It is at this forum where a draft ward budget is prepared. The draft ward budget is then presented by each Sub-County executive representative to the County executive forum and discussed at this stage. The executive forum is composed of County Executive Committee Members(CECs), County Secretary(CS), Deputy Governor and the Governor. The draft budget proposal is then presented to the County Assembly for deliberation and adoption.
Methods and Tools Used
The method used in this budget decision-making process is called participatory budgeting. This involves community members drawn from sub-location, location and sub-county working together with county government officials to deliberate and make decisions on various projects to be undertaken at their respective locations.
Marsabit county is the largest county in the country in terms of landmass. Reaching members of the public living in the county is a difficult task due to low levels of education, poor roads and weak communication network and tribal conflicts. The county then exhausts all possible and convenient methods of reaching out to the public. The County Government of Marsabit publishes through the national newspaper schedule of the meeting dates to be conducted across the county. The schedule indicates the respective venues of the ward level forums. The vernacular local FM radio stations plays a key role in publicizing the meetings and educating the members of the public on the essence of participating in the budget forum. Religious leaders are mobilized and used to make announcements in churches, mosques and traditional religious gatherings. The county through sub-county administrators conducts mobilization and awareness campaign across the county. They use village, location, and sub- county public notice boards, the chief’s “baraza’, and local leaders to make announcements. Social Media platforms and official county websites are also used to disseminate information on schedules and respective venues of the budget processes. The participants for public budget participation are drawn from all members of the community at the initial stage of sub-county forum. They then elect representatives at every level from the locational to sub-county forums.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
A trained community facilitator conducts deliberations at the lowest level of the forums (sub-location and location). The county government staff, who are drawn from different departments, are assigned responsibilities to conduct the budget participatory process in different sub-counties. The county staff are well updated before the deliberations by the finance department on the county budget allocation done by the central government. They mainly assist by providing guidance to the communities on functions that are not devolved and have no budget allocation at the county level of the governance.
Concern Worldwide encourages the county to adopt an all-inclusive decision-making process called Community Conversations (CC). This approach enables all members of the community (men, women, youth and people with disability) to participate in the budget proposal forum. The forum requires a trained facilitator who will initiate community entry, use different tools for structuring dialogue, analyze and response. CC has been of great help in breaking traditional roles, such as men being the only decision makers in a community.
Through CC, women, youth and teenage mothers who are previously regarded as outcasts in a community are able to attend the community “bazaar.” They contribute, deliberate and are part of consultative decision-making process. In these forums community members attend the published meetings to deliberate. Everyone is given time to air his/her concerns and to voice what should be addressed by the county government. The participants are mainly encouraged to make decisions on projects to be implemented in their respective location by consensus. In situations where there is conflict on a project, voting by a show of hands decides that a project is selected by a majority vote.
The deliberations are compiled and minutes taken of the proceedings. The minutes of every meeting are presented in the subsequent forums for discussion again and until a draft of the budget is created at sub-county level which is then presented to the county executive forum. At this level the heads of every department (CECs and CS) together with county political leaders (Governor and Deputy Governor) consolidate the public proposals to County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP), a guide for the county annual budget. They then develop a draft of the county budget and present it to the county assembly for deliberation and adoption.
After the adoption of the final budget, the county government through the Department of Finance disseminates this information to its citizens. This is done through sub-county administrators office, who are liaise with different village elders and conduct the village “bazaar.” It is in this “barazas” that the village elders update the community on the projects that made it to final budget. There is no clear monitoring procedure to guide the community in ensuring the proposed projects are accomplished. However, the public uses the Governors meet- the-people tour that happens quarterly to raise their concerns on any pending or incomplete projects that exist.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
This process enabled a more equitable process to include members of the community who were previously not involved in the decision-making processes. Women, youth, teenage mothers, people with disability and vulnerable members of the community were given an opportunity to feel part of the community decision-making process. The process has created social justice, where marginalized members of the community feel equal and respected to air their views. Previously these members had weak social ties in the communities; they didn’t feel they had a voice. Since this process has been initiated, they feel part of the community and believe their decisions are worthwhile.
The public participation process allowed for citizens to identify their community needs. This process turned a top-down approach to the budget-making process which existed for so long in the older constitution to a more equitable approach. As a results, the bottom-up approach strengthened community participation and decentralized the decision-making process. This increased citizen participation in government interventions. The citizens are engaged in government freely and share what they expect the government to do for them. The community are identifying real needs for projects as opposed to projects imposed on them by government officials and politicians. This has also led to project sustainability throughout the county. Community members are able to prioritize their needs, and this helps the county government address the needs with the limited resources. The processes have also harmonized the working relationship between the county executives and political arms of the county and national governments. It has also built trust between the government and the community. Thereby making the government invest in areas that were previously marginalized.
This process has created a stream of accountability. The public budget participatory process has created a transparency regarding budget allocations. And community members are now more aware of their rights and can identify corruption among political leaders and government officials who abuse their use of office. This process provides citizens with a platform to conduct checks and balances to the government. The process acts now as a greater voice of the poor and marginalized members in the community.
The participatory budget process has led to community members feeling that public participation is needed and their right. Citizens are now demanding for public forums and inclusive processes to be used before decisions and budget proposals are carried out within the community.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
According to Marsabit County Government, there was no formal evaluation process conducted. However, during the budget participatory process community conversation groups were not established in all sub-location and local levels across the county. There are locations that have no existing community conversations structure to guide the public participation process. There is no link between the educated members of the community and the uneducated members creating a gap in addressing community needs. Majority of educated members of the community reside in developed town centers which are far from the grassroot locations making it difficult to travel to the grassroot level meetings where the largest population of community lives(uneducated). This in turn leads to each category of the community members developing different priorities when it comes to the needs There is therefore a need to harmonize this needs and develop only one list to represent the general population of the community across the county.
Participation of marginalized members of the community in the budget process was successful. This was because youth, people living with a disability and women were able to attend forums and contribute their views. The commitment to this process is evident by the increased number of community members participating in the budget participatory process.
 KENYA, L. O. THE CONSTITUTION OF KENYA, 2010. Retrieved from: http://kenyalaw.org/kl/index.php?id=398
 The Public Finance Management Act 2012 Retrieved from: http://www.treasury.go.ke/tax/acts.html?download=603:the-public-finance-management-act- 2012-1-1
 World Bank. (2018). Kenya accountable devolution program (English). Washington, D.C.: World Bank Group. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/898461518702311127/Kenya-accountable-devolution-program
 Concern Worldwide. Community Conversation. https://www.concern.net/sites/default/files/media/resource/community_conversations_- _opportunities_for_systematic_and_inclusive_citizen_participation_in_kenya.pdf
 County Government of Marsabit (2018). Retrieved from: http://marsabit.go.ke/2018/03/07/county-fiscal-strategy-paper-2018/
Update: similar content at http://marsabit.go.ke/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Marsabit-CFSP-2018.pdf
 County Government of Marsabit. (2016). Annual Development Plan 2017- 2018 https://www.marsabit.go.ke/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Marsabit-ADP-2017-2018.pdf
 Concern Worldwide. “Our Community Our Solutions” Community Conversations: Trainer of Trainers Manual. https://www.concern.net/insights/community-conversationstrainer-trainers-manual
 Buchyzia, H. J. A., Akinyi, O. A., Carneiro, P. T., Ruth, W. R. (2018). Participatory Budgeting
Manual for County Governments in Kenya (English). Washington, D.C.: World Bank Group. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/754841536125154333/Participatory-Budgeting-Manual-for-County-Governments-in-Kenya
The original submission of this case entry was written by Christopher Ogom, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. The views expressed in the current version are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.