Opinion and Analysis
Boost public participation in financial management
Posted Sunday, September 23 2012 at 16:56
On July 23, 2012, President Kibaki signed into law five Bills, among them the Public Financial Management (PFM) Bill 2012. The Public Financial Management Act, details how the nation and county governments will raise and share revenue. It also seeks to promote transparency and accountability in the management of public finances, at the National Government and County Government.
The new PFM law represents a unique opportunity, to enhance the role of citizen participation in public financial management process in Kenya. Regulations for the implementation of the new PFM law are now being drafted, and the public needs to share its recommendations with the ministry, in the spirit and letter of public participation, as in explicitly defined in Article 201 of the Constitution.
Although no announcement has been made seeking input into draft regulations for this Act, it is not too early to consider the implications for the new dispensation for public participation, and how this should be organized, before the regulations are drawn up and a new order firmly established.
The Act affirms the need to incorporate public participation into different financial management processes. Section 10(2) of the Act avers that the Parliamentary Budget Office is exhorted to “observe the principle of public participation in budgetary matters”.
The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) together with partner CSOs seek to inform the drafting of the regulations needed to implement the law, specifically those related to public participation in financial matters. The Institute and its partners therefore propose 10 key principles that should inform public participation more broadly, in matters of public finance.
First and foremost, public consultations should be open to the widest spectrum of citizens and taxpayers, without discrimination. Secondly, safeguards should be established to prevent consultative forums from being dominated by any one political group, organized interest or politician. These safeguards should include open and transparent proceedings as well as competitively selected technical staff.
Public consultations must also have clear and specific purposes. Lastly, whenever the public is asked for input, there should be a feedback mechanism, available in a timely fashion, so that the citizens are able to know whether their input was received, and whether and why they were or were not incorporated into the relevant plans or budgets. Adhering to these principles gives real meaning to public participation, enhances transparency and strengthens the outcomes of public expenditure
Mr Owino is the CEO of Institute of Economic Affairs and Ms Audi the PR and communication officer