Improve Citizen Awareness of and Input Into County Spending Decisions, by Publishing and Seeking Citizen Feedback on Budget Formulation (ELG0002)
Issue to be addressed: Meaningful participation increases the citizenry’s receptiveness of Government decision-making, improves citizens’ knowledge and awareness of complex policy challenges, helps decision-makers to make better decisions that in turn improves the quality of public services being provided by the government and enhance public integrity Public participation is particularly important because a significant portion (more than 70%) of the County’s development budget is influenced by public participation; Primary objective: To enhance financial management accountability and citizen participation in budget management processes by simplifying and disseminating budget related documents for prompt feedback and citizen oversight; Short description: By enabling citizens to engage and give quality and appropriate feedback on budget making by designing, developing, and publishing simplified and succinct templates that are easily understood and accessible while institutionalizing sector interest forums with citizen representation. OGP challenge: Public participation engagement gives citizens a platform to access government information and express their view on the development programmes both at the sectoral level and ward level which are very crucial in county development. Citizens best understand their community needs and engaging them in the development process can help the County ensure its programmes and their implementation are relevant to the communities they are appointed to serve.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
Commitment 2. Improve citizen awareness and input in county spending decisions
Improve citizen awareness of and input into county spending decisions, by publishing and seeking citizen feedback on budget formulation.
To enhance financial management accountability and citizen participation in budget management processes by simplifying and disseminating budget related documents for prompt feedback and citizen oversight.
By enabling citizens to engage and give quality and appropriate feedback on budget making by designing, developing, and publishing simplified and succinct templates that are easily understood and accessible while institutionalizing sector interest forums with citizen representation.
2.1 Constitute a Sector Working Groups (SWG) to be engaging all relevant stakeholders in the budgetary process to improve budget management processes
2.2 Prepare an updated Projects cost Reference list to guide citizens when prioritizing projects
2.3 Design and prepare simplified budget templates for citizens pre- budget and post-preparation forums
2.4 Disseminate simplified budget templates using the website, emails, notices boards and public forums
Editorial Note: The text above includes sections of the commitment text to fit this report. The complete text with specific responsible actors and completion dates per milestone can be found in the Elgeyo Marakwet Action Plan 2017.
Overall Objective & Relevance
Prior to the formulation of this commitment, the County Government (as required by the constitution and the Public Financial Management Act, 2012 For more information, see section 137 of the Public Finance Management Act 2012 available at https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjhmOmi2b7WAhWNJVAKHX3iBaoQFggnMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.treasury.go.ke%2Ftax%2Facts.html%3Fdownload%3D603%3Athe-public-finance-management-act-2012-1-1&usg=AFQjCNHOzCke6SXBiwMf1Z2IsNBUbMoeRQ ), had incorporated several initiatives to engage citizens in the budgeting process, including public participation forums, creation of channels for submitting citizen memoranda and periodic publication of draft and approved budget documents. The first commitment of the action plan, explains that more than 70% of the development budget is allocated directly through public participation processes. https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Elgeyo-Marakwet_Subnational_Action-Plan20161201.pdf
However, despite these efforts, the Government and civil society organizations such as the International Budget Partnership, the Network for CSOs and the Center for Innovations, find the level of effectiveness of citizen engagement to be wanting. Challenges understanding the budget documents and over/under budgeting for project costs have resulted in suboptimal utilization of citizen inputs and created loopholes that hinder the achievement of desired projects or wastage and corruption of resources. For example, IBP Kenya, in its paper County Budget and Economic Forums and Public Participation in Kenya (2014), noted that the documents given at pubic consultations were very technical. http://www.internationalbudget.org/wp-content/uploads/County-Budget-and-Economic-Forums-CBEFs-and-Public-Participation-in-Kenya.pdf Further, the Center for Innovations, in its observation report and lessons learnt from the 2016 County Annual Development Plan Public Participation For more information on the Observation report of the Annual Development Plan 2016 Public Participation Act (by Center for Innovations), see https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0ByGU03hIyT02a3g1MXpMYkRzM28 , reported that information was not provided on time for citizens to read, internalize and understand.
Furthermore, the Government of Elgeyo has already established the concept of Sector Working Groups to engage with stakeholders during budgetary processes as a best practice. However, this effort has not yet been institutionalized by the county government. The framework for constituting sector working groups (SWG) and their role in engaging stakeholders in the budgetary process is defined in the County Public Participation guidelines, http://www.devolutionplanning.go.ke/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/County-Public-Participation.pdf developed by the Ministry of Devolution and Planning and the Council of Governors.
As defined in the action plan, this commitment aims to enhance financial management accountability and citizen participation in budgetary processes by: (1) creating easy to use budget templates for citizens' pre-budget and post-preparation forums, (2) publishing cost reference lists to guide citizens when prioritizing projects and (3) institutionalizing sector working groups to engage all relevant stakeholders in the budget process.
The commitment addresses the values of access to information by aiming to improve the quality and usefulness of budgetary information to enhance citizen input, and civic participation by introducing the engagement of stakeholders, including civil society organizations in the sector working groups. This commitment also addresses the OGP grand challenge on more effectively managing public resources, because the outcome of the commitment includes improved citizen input in budgetary decisions.
Specificity and Potential Impact
The IRM researcher considers that commitment language is of medium specificity and has moderate potential impact.
Studies have shown that citizens in Elgeyo are willing to participate in the budgetary process. The Center for Innovations, in its observation report of the 2016 ADP exercise, noted that 'citizens want to attend public forums, and €¦ the public needs more extensive information at these forums'; however, the level of citizen input in the budgetary process is limited due to technicality of information provided, and development is not achieved as desired due to over or under-budgeting. Therefore, the creation and dissemination of simplified budget templates and a cost reference list would be a major improvement on the citizens' ability to participate and provide input on the budgeting process in a more effective and participatory manner.
Moreover, the institutionalization of the sector working groups to engage different stakeholders could be a major improvement of the current practice. Currently, citizen engagement for development projects is done at the ward level, and before and after budget public hearings. The County Public Participation guidelines, http://www.devolutionplanning.go.ke/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/County-Public-Participation.pdf defines SWGs to include non-state actors' representatives, whose role is to identify the sector needs and priorities and to review sector reports. Additionally, the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think tank working at the country level, in its Handbook 'County Planning County Budgeting and Social Accountability', http://uraia.or.ke/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Handbook-on-County-Planning-County-Budgeting-and-Social-Accountability.pdf also explains that SWG are planned to be made up of different actors, including representatives from government, development partners, civil society and the private sector. The handbook further explains that the role of these groups consists of preparing reports to identify and rank sector priorities, and analyze the costs of the different proposed policies, programs and activities. The reports should contain costed programs ranked in order of priority on a three-year rolling plan together with a criterion for allocation of resources among competing needs. However, the commitment text does not provide specific steps for the composition of these groups. It also fails to indicate how the group members would be appointed, how it would be structured, and how government officials would use the reports they put together. The commitment's limited specificity in this regard, hinders the measurability of its potential impact.
The IRM researcher considers the implementation of this commitment to be substantial. The government made an significant effort to fulfil the first three milestones, however none of them were fully implemented because of delays during implementation, and the fourth milestone had not been started at the time of assessment.
The Directorate of Economic Planning, with the support of the Center for Innovations in Open Governance (CIOG), developed the guidelines and terms of reference for the constitution of the Sector Working Group (SWGs) https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0ByGU03hIyT02a3g1MXpMYkRzM28 . The terms of reference included the list of proposed members from government departments and non-state institutions. To develop this documents, they referenced the national government framework on the operationalization of the SWGs The Government Circular on SWGs can be found here https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0ByGU03hIyT02a3g1MXpMYkRzM28 , and the National treasury's classification of function of government https://www.knbs.or.ke/download/classification-of-government-expenditures-by-functions-of-government-cofog/ . The government then called for a meeting with development partners to discuss and validate the guidelines, terms of reference and composition of the SWGs, on 11 December 2017, during which the guidelines were adopted The list of participants and records of discussions for the round table meeting can be found here https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0ByGU03hIyT02a3g1MXpMYkRzM28 . A sensitization meeting was also organized for sub-county and ward administrators on 21 December 2017 to take them through the functioning of the SWGs and particularly to highlight the role of the SWGs in the CIDP development process. However, the respective appointment letters for the representing individuals in the Sector Working Groups had not been written. Therefore, this milestone is considered to have been substantially completed with only one step left to complete.
The development of the project cost reference list was still an ongoing process at the time of the assessment. By the end of the implementation period, the Directorate of Budget had completed a 1st draft, which was guided by referenced documents such as the Rural Development Fund Project Handbook, CDF projects and Inputs from the directorate of public works. The draft Project Cost Reference List is available here https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0ByGU03hIyT02a3g1MXpMYkRzM28 .The Government is yet to meet with the stakeholders (Steering Committee and Cabinet) to discuss and approve the cost reference list.
Milestones 3 and 4
In milestone 3, the Government committed to develop pre and post budget templates. While substantive efforts were made to prepare post budget templates, the pre-budget templates had not yet been prepared.
The government was supported by the CIOG to design and develop three different versions of simplified post budget templates, with the fourth one being the default version used by the county government The exhibits can be found here, https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0ByGU03hIyT02a3g1MXpMYkRzM28 . The most time-consuming task was to conduct a study experiment in seven villages across the county (one per ward) to test the ease of access and understanding of budget information. By the end of the action plan period, the government and the CIOG representatives had been able to finish the experiment and were in the process of reviewing the findings. They had yet to agree upon a template to be used to disseminate budget information and for citizens to use during pre-budget and post-preparation forums. Therefore, the IRM researcher considers that this milestone was substantially completed.
In the first trimester of 2018, outside of the period of review, the government and CIOG members reported to have produced the templates for the fulfillment of this milestone. Mr. Maritim John Maritim (Director of Economic Planning, County Government of Elgeyo Marakwet), Response to discussions between steering committee and IRM researcher on 08/12/2017 , the director of economic planning, explained that the government intended to develop and test pre-budget templates under an actual public participation exercise for a substantive budget process. Additionally, it was intended for the SWGs to provide technical and more useful input into the budget simplification process. According to Mr. Kiprono Timothy Kiprono (Executive Director, CIOG). Interview by IRM researcher on 15/12/2017 , the executive director of CIOG, the study that was conducted also served as a platform for disseminating information on the budget that had just been approved. However, as explained, in the action plan period, the pre-budget public consultations had long been done, and the budget had just been approved, and this explains the priority development of post budget templates.
Milestone 4 was delayed because of the cumulative nature of activities set out by the commitment and its dependence upon the success of milestone 3. Therefore, since the templates were not finalized on time, no dissemination was carried out.
Early results: did it open government?
Access to information: Marginal
Civic Participation: Marginal
In establishing this commitment, the government aimed to address the challenges faced to attain effective citizen engagement in the budgetary process. The government committed to establish Sector Working groups (SWGs) to involve other non-governmental practitioners and stakeholders in the budgetary process, and, through sector discussions, allow the related sectors to prioritize projects competitively, and provide a platform for ministries who perform same work to prioritize their activities based on the available resource envelop. The government also sought to document a project cost reference list to guide citizens in project prioritization and to simplify and disseminate budget templates. These activities were spread to be implemented throughout the action plan period. Through these activities, the government intended to improve the level and effectiveness of citizen engagement in the budgeting process. The commitment sought to change the quality of citizen inputs by utilizing the simplified budget templates and incorporating the inputs of the SWGs.
Through this commitment, the county government of Elgeyo Marakwet County achieved a minor but positive change in civic participation and access to information by engagement of non-governmental stakeholders and citizens in its processes, During the meeting of 11th December 2017, the non-governmental stakeholders who attended were able to align themselves to their sectors of interest, and some took up to support the County Government in preparing its integrated development plan (CIDP). Also, the budget templates piloted in the 7 wards were prepared based on actual budget information, and as Mr. Kiprono (CIOG) explained, the exercise not only served to pilot the templates, it also was a budget dissemination process.
The increased participation of these actors constitutes a positive change, however, limited in government practice. Because of the short period for commitment implementation, the IRM is yet to see the results of this commitment in regards to increasing the effectiveness of citizen participation in budgetary processes. This will be seen when the SWGs become functional, and the budget templates are used to achieve the desired outcome.
· The EMC could consider carrying forward the commitment to achieve two main goals: (i) to develop and publish budget templates for pre and post budget forums, including publishing project cost reference list. An additional milestone to disseminate these documents to the lowest level of citizen engagement may be included. (ii) to ensure functionality of the Sector Working Groups €“ by establishing detailed milestones on the working of the sector working groups.
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