Lets Remind Ourselves Of Public Participation By Samwella Lerno

Writer is a contributor of Siasa Place’s writer’s podium

Citizen participation is a requisite for strengthened devolution, for devolution to work the people must be involved in the decision-making and oversight functions. The objects and principles of devolved government according to Article 174 are to; (c) give powers of self-governance to the people and enhance their participation in the exercise of the powers of the state and in making decisions affecting them, (d) Recognize the rights of the communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development.

Public participation is ideally based on belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process. A mantra that has fuelled disability rights movements over the years ‘Nothing about us, without us’ James Charlton, the author of a book by the same title expresses the conviction of people with disabilities that they know what is best for them any decision that is made without them is not for them.

The whole purpose of citizen involvement through public participation is to give citizens power to have a say in all matters. This ensures governments achieve key milestones in democracy; improved performance as citizens gets involved in identifying their needs, priority areas and increased sense of ownership. Citizens become partners with their governments in a manner that promotes good governance and human rights.

To trickle down a sense of ownership on the citizen’s part in development is crucial in minimization of wastage from governments. Without treating citizens as partners there is danger that policies, programmes and interventions implemented at community levels will simply be imposed upon them.

Why public participation?

Public participation leads to better decisions by improving quality of decisions made in a community. Where a process is inclusive, participants (governments and citizens) get an opportunity to clearly identify issues that are at play in any decision or project or challenge.
After identifying issues, clarity is sought so that all views are obtained.

All alternatives are weighed and the best option is picked to aid in decision-making. Decisions made in this manner benefit from community contribution, which is vital as they’re most affected. They know what they need and are more likely to be better than a decision made without their involvement.

Public participation helps in setting priorities as it informs government the level of importance the citizens attach to a particular situation which helps in channelling of resources (monetary and otherwise). Public participation reduces conflict as working together with diverse people can be difficult, different opinions or diverse interests in decisions can lead to conflict especially at the backdrop of campaign promises.

However, public participation ensures potential areas of disagreement are identified and addressed with concerned people before a decision is made. The fears and interests of such groups are addressed and they become part of the decision-making process. When an agreement is reached the potential for conflict is minimized if not eliminated altogether.

Role of leaders in public participation

What has been provided in the constitution and other secondary legislation; In Article 232 on the Values and principles of public service part (1) include (d) involvement of the people in the process of policy-making (e) accountability for administrative acts (f) Transparency and provision to the public of timely and accurate information.

Leaders should ensure they are accessible and represent citizens, ensure existence of forums and opportunities for citizens. Provide civic education on public participation in simplified formats and the key elements of it like budget making and policy development. Develop effective communication channels with citizens, this includes both online and offline channels as well as mobile and non-mobile channels in all languages understandable to the citizens.

Using those channels to get information out in advance and to a proper depth so participation, decision making is informed and effective. Provide timely and useful information to the citizens on critical and emerging issues. Provide resources to facilitate public participation, on budget making, policy issues, project options etc. Opening channels for public participation goes a long way to ensure that county governments are more responsive to citizens as collaborators and clients hence spur development.

I think as a national value, participation of the people comes with myriad of challenges. Challenges that can be addressed jointly, proper frameworks should be set out to make it more effective. It should be free from predetermined outcomes as often is the case where county officials use citizen forums to rubber stamp their already developed plans. They have to be as inclusive as possible, youth and women should particularly be prioritized. Public participation when properly done enhances shared responsibility in county’s development.

By Samwella Lerno
Writer is a contributor of Siasa Place’s writer’s podium

Kenya’s workers walk to work, MPs pocket best salaries by Nerima Wako

You can also read the original article posted on East African Standard – Kenya’s workers walk to work, MPs pocket best salaries.

After every election year, as surely as the night follows the day, Kenyan Members of Parliament use the House’s opening session to increase their salaries.Taking a closer look at the East African region, Kenya comes first when it comes to MPs’ pay, Uganda second and then Tanzania and Rwanda. There is no doubt that Kenyan legislators are among the best paid in the world.

In 2013, a study conducted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union compared the salaries of different parliaments around the world. It noted that, from 2008, there was a not unexpected decline in these salaries due to the global economic crisis.Given ever-rising populations, governments will have to find ways of saving resources in order to sustain their people.However, common sense is not so common these days. Considering that legislators in Kenya earn more than any other East African country, is this in correlation to our population?

Both Kenya and Uganda have over 400 legislators but are smaller in population size compared with Tanzania. Tanzania has a population of 59 million, Uganda 44 million and Kenya 50 million. In Uganda, the total number of legislators is 432, Kenya has 416 and Tanzania 357.Examining other countries in Africa, the same imbalance emerges. South Africa, which has a population of 57 million and Nigeria with 195 million, have 490 and 469 legislators each. The GDP in South Africa and Nigeria is also higher. Once more, we seem to be overrepresented in our legislature.

Still, the bone of contention is the salaries that we pay MPs. On May 1, 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta made a Labour Day announcement increasing minimum wages by 18 per cent. On Labour Day 2018, President Kenyatta increased the wage again, by five per cent, and complaints were heard to the effect that the previous 18 per cent had not been implemented.What does that mean to the average worker? For instance in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa, Kenya’s three main cities, a worker earning a minimum wage of Ksh12,900 ($129) will earn Ksh620 ($6.20) more. That means that if they travel by matatu for 30 shillings one way, working five days a week, the addition to their salary can pay for transport for two weeks. That is, if you are lucky enough not to work Saturdays.

If your transport is 60 shillings per trip, then you have transport for one week. Thus the increment cannot even support a worker’s transport to their place of work. Mind you, MPs’ basic pay is in the range of Ksh600-700,000 ($6,000-$7,000).
Recently, as I was heading to the office, I took a moment to observe the number of people who walk to work. There is such a large number and it seems to be increasing by the day, because getting to work is so expensive.

Although the minimum wage has been set by the president, thousands of workers still receive pay below that amount, many receive below 50 per cent of the stipulated wage. When it comes to increasing salaries for the average worker, this offer is literally peanuts. Granted, salaries for people who work in public office are not always easy to determine.Although many elected officials claim to need high salaries because of the demands of their voters, the solution is not to increase their salaries to sustain handouts, but to find ways to alleviate poverty so that people are not dependent on handouts.

Many countries have come up with proposals to place caps on the differential between the highest earner and lowest earner so as to keep resources allocated for public wages reasonable.Listening to Members of Parliament talk about the difference between a house loan and a mortgage while they receive sitting allowances, vehicles, medical insurance and other privileges that the taxpayer will have to pay for, it is clear their heads are in the clouds and they are out of touch with what the people they lead actually need.