Politics and policy
Public gets chance to give views on devolved funds
Posted Thursday, January 19 2012 at 21:45
The public hearings on the 2012/13 budgetary proposals launched by the Treasury on Tuesday are expected to provide yet another test case on the ability of citizens to engage and bargain with the Executive on key governance issues.
The Treasury has unveiled a general outline on how it expects to spend Sh1.14 trillion to roll out transitional structures.
While the essence of devolution is to improve service delivery, most of the citizens who made their presentations at the public forum did not have a clear idea of how fiscal decentralisation works.
However, the Constitution says their views matter.
“We will monitor these public hearings keenly because our mandate is to ensure that the Budget policy statement that comes to Parliament next month fairly reflects what citizens want,” said Elias Mbau, chairman of the Parliamentary Budgetary Committee.
“We expect Treasury officials to take advantage of this period of interaction with citizens to clearly explain to them the budgetary constraints so as to tame their expectations.”
The public is expected to dissect through the figures that policy makers have arrived at after long hours of technical analyses to ensure that their interests are safeguarded.
They are also supposed to question some of the economic assumptions made in the 2012/13 estimates even as they share with economic planners the pain that inflation and a weaker shilling have inflicted on them.
They are expected to query state’s growing appetite for external loans and get assurance that their national sovereignty is not exposed to control by external forces.
Most importantly, communities should take advantage of the public hearings to legitimately bargain for their piece of the national cake beside dictating how resources should be managed.
Speaking at a different forum held in Nairobi recently, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said: “Public participation is a hallmark of this Constitution that citizens must be vigilant about.”
It is a worthy story to tell 10 years after former president Daniel arap Moi collectively personified ordinary citizens as “Wanjiku” in a first official attempt to institutionalise their participation in public affairs.
A class that has traditionally been relegated to the peripheral role in governance issues has suddenly acquired constitutional powers to end subjugation by the ruling elite. From her time-honoured status as a taker of every decision that affects the public, the Constitution envisages Wanjiku as a purveyor general of every thought that shapes her ability to create wealth.
Yet with just a few tests so far, partisan politics and ethnic consideration are getting in the way of ordinary citizens’ quest to rewrite the rules of public governance even as the state begins to redirect resources to the grassroots.
“There is real enthusiasm from citizens who are turning up in large numbers to engage with government officials during public consultation forums”, said Public Health PS Mark Bor as he unveiled health sector’s 2012/13 expenditure plans.