Improving Access to Government Budget Information and Creating Wider and More Inclusive Structures for Public Participation (KE0016)
Action Plan: Kenya National Action Plan 2016-2018
Action Plan Cycle: 2016
Lead Institution: National Treasury
Support Institution(s): Controller of Budget and the Auditor General National Sector Working Groups Ministry of Devolution and Planning Kenya School of Government National Assembly International Budget Partnership (Kenya) Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) ICJ Council of Governors Ushahidi
Policy AreasE-Government, Fiscal Transparency, Participation in Budget Processes, Public Participation, Records Management
Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed Poor public access to budget information within set timelines and standard formats Insufficient public participation throughout the budget cycle Loss of public resources due to fiscal malfeasance Brief Description of Commitment (140 character limit) To improve access to government spending information and implement wider and more inclusive public participation structures with the target improving Kenya’s Open Budget Index from a score of 48 to 60 points by December 2017 OGP challenge addressed by the commitment Increasing public integrity: transparent public spending will increase the government’s accountability to the public. More democratic processes in the formulation, adoption and application of the budget will also increase public integrity. More effectively managing public resources: a transparent budget submitted to legislative oversight will reduce the risk of mismanagement of public funds and corruption, which will increase the efficiency of public resources.
IRM Midterm Status Summary
Title: 7. Improving access to government budget information and creating wider and more inclusive structures for public participation
Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: Poor public access to budget information within set timelines and standard formats insufficient public participation throughout the budget cycle Loss of public resources due to fiscal malfeasance
Brief Description of Commitment: To improve access to government spending information and implement wider and more inclusive public participation structures with the target improving Kenya’s Open Budget Index from a score of 48 to 60 points by December 2017
OGP challenge addressed by the commitment: Increasing public integrity: transparent public spending will increase the government’s accountability to the public. More democratic processes in the formulation, adoption and application of the budget will also increase public integrity. More effectively managing public resources: a transparent budget submitted to legislative oversight will reduce the risk of mismanagement of public funds and corruption, which will increase the efficiency of public resources.
7.1. Create one central online platform to publish budget documents
7.2. Set and follow common standards in the preparation and presentation of all budget documents
7.3. Public participation by the national government will be more open and inclusive and progressively.
7.4. Budget implementation will be more open to the public and Parliament should work with local communities to monitor project implementation.
Editorial note: The commitment text has been abridged for brevity. For full text, please see Kenya’s National Action Plan 2016–18, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Kenya_AP2_2016_0.pdf.
Responsible institution: National Treasury
Supporting institutions: Controller of Budget and the Auditor General; National Sector Working Groups; Ministry of Devolution and Planning; Kenya School of Government; National Assembly; International Budget Partnership (Kenya); Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA); ICJ; Council of Governors; and Ushahidi
Start date: 1 July 2016
End date: 30 June 2018
Context and Objectives
The government of Kenya has in the recent past made significant steps to enhance openness in the planning and budgeting process, to increase budget transparency, and to improve public participation by putting in place a comprehensive legal framework. Examples include the enactment of constitutional provisions on public finance and the implementation of the Public Finance and Management Act 2012. However, challenges of accessing budget information within set timelines and standard formats, and a lack of public participation persists. The commitment seeks to address these challenges as well as the misappropriation of public resources. The Open Budget Survey (OBS) 2015, commissioned by International Budget Partnership, examined 102 countries in budget transparency, participation, and oversight. Kenya scored 48 out of 100 in budget transparency, 33 in public participation, 49 in oversight by legislature and 67 by audit (1 being poor and 100 being excellent). If this commitment is fully implemented as written, it could be a moderate step forward toward increasing public integrity and promoting transparent public spending that would increase the government’s accountability to the public. Coupled with legislative oversight, this could reduce the risk of mismanagement of public funds and corruption.
Proposed activities include creating a central online platform to publish budget documents; setting and following common standards in preparing and presenting all budget documents; and increasing openness in public participation by the national government. In addition, the budget implementation will be more open to the public.
This commitment advances the OGP values of access to information, civic participation and public accountability as well as technology and innovation for transparency and accountability. Its potential impact is coded as moderate because full implementation could ensure more transparency in public spending, thereby increasing the government’s accountability to the public. For example, publication of the budget documents on an online platform may enhance access to budget information not previously available to Kenyans. However, several of the commitment’s milestones are not specific, so the scope and scale of proposed reforms cannot be determined accurately.
7.1. Create one central online platform to publish budget documents
The Public Finance and Management Act 2012 requires all key budget documents to be made publicly available. The current government practice is that the national government publishes budget documents through the national treasury website[Note118: The National Treasury, 'Home/Budget,' (2018) http://www.treasury.go.ke/budget.html.] while counties publish the same on their websites. International Budgetary Partnership Kenya (IBP Kenya)[Note119: International Budget Partnership, 'Are Counties Making Budget Documents Available to the Public? A Review of County Websites' (Apr. 2017) https://www.internationalbudget.org/wp-content/uploads/kenya-county-budget-transparency-review-march-2017.pdf.] shows that only about 20 percent of key county budget documents that were supposed to be online were available.[Note120: Margaret Njugunah, 'Kenya: Counties Not Making Key Documents Available Online - Study,' (All Africa, 2017) allafrica.com/stories/201709260031.html. ] The common practice for the National Treasury and county treasuries has been to provide hard copies of documents to participants during the public meetings, and this limits effective participation because of the large volume of the documents that participants had to process without sufficient notice. This milestone therefore seeks to create one central online platform and publish budget documents within seven days of their tabling or publication and in machine-readable formats. This includes documents produced by the government at the national and county levels, going back five years. There have been ongoing discussions between the Controller of Budget and various organisations to create one space where all county and national budgets are available to the general public under the World Bank Boost project[Note121: The World Bank, 'Open Budgets Portal' (2017) boost.worldbank.org. ] which is linked to the Kenya open data portal and there are plans to launch a national and county portal that is directly supported by National Treasury.
7.2. Set and follow common standards in the preparation and presentation of all budget documents
The PFM Act requires that the budget be presented in a program-based format. This is a move from the line item-based budgeting that was in place before the enactment of the PFM Act and the promulgation of the constitution of Kenya 2010. This presentation allows for more detailed information to be shared and enables trend analyses. The law, however, is not explicit on the formatting of other budget documents. This milestone therefore seeks to set common standards in the preparation and presentation of all budget documents. Envisioned activity is clear and detailed and the potential impact could be moderate in improving the presentation and readability of budget documents.
7.3. Public participation by the national government will be more open and inclusive and progressively
Public participation is required by both constitutional provisions and enabling legislation. The milestone seeks to address the challenge of effective participation, as the law is silent on the thresholds of what constitutes effective participation. However, the commitment does not specify how the government will comply with the law to ensure public participation improvement in open budgeting. This step is written as an aspirational goal to strengthen public participation framework and it is not clear what activities are to be carried out, therefore the potential impact is none.
7.4. Budget implementation will be more open to the public and Parliament should work with local communities to monitor project implementation
Budget implementation information by the national and county treasuries has been shrouded in secrecy. Constitutional and legal provisions require budget information to be made publicly available for scrutiny by the two levels of government; the Controller of Budget releases quarterly and year-end implementation reports, which can be used to monitor the budget implementation by citizens.
The milestone seeks to open budget implementation information and have Parliament work with local communities to monitor budgets. While this commitment is relevant to public accountability, its text does not explain how Parliament will engage with local communities and how the monitoring will take place. This diminished its potential impact to minor.
The implementation of this commitment has not started during the first year of the action plan. None of the milestones have made any progress. The central online platform for publishing budget documents has not been created and subsequently budget documents in program-based format have not been published. The IRM researcher did not find any evidence of parliament-led citizen monitoring projects. However, there are a number of CSO-led initiatives on project monitoring, including citizen report cards, social audits, and community monitoring scorecards by CSOs such as National Taxpayers Association, The Institute for Social Accountability, the Society for International Development, among others.
There are ongoing discussions, originally starting before the action plan, between the Controller of Budget and various organisations to create one space where all county and national budgets are available to the public under the World Bank Boost project[Note122: Id. ] which is linked to the Kenya open data portal.
This commitment covers budget transparency, which is an area that is part of a larger framework that predates the action plan. There is no evidence that increased transparency is related to this commitment however, the national and county treasuries should be commended for increasingly making available the budget documents on their websites.[Note123: International Budget Partnership, 'Are Counties Making Budget Documents Available to the Public? A Review of County Websites.'] According to IBP Kenya, Baringo County has consistently been the best performer across all the studies showing a consistent pattern of transparency.
To fully implement the milestones and address budget transparency moving forward, the following steps are recommended:
To enhance budget transparency, the government should take concrete steps to institutionalise citizen oversight. This could include mechanisms to allow monitoring of government allocations and spending through social accountability mechanisms like budget expenditure tracking and social audits.
Budget discussions usually occur through sector hearings, public forums convened according to the government sectors.[Note124: Sector examples include: agriculture, fisheries and livestock; public works, roads, transport, energy and disaster management; trade, cooperatives, tourism and industry; health and sanitation; education, vocational training and childhood development; public service, ICT and intergovernmental relations; lands, housing and urban development; community development, sports, culture and social services; water, environment and natural resources; finance and economic planning; and governance, justice, law and order (GJLOS).] Currently, they take place during the formulation and approval of the budget. To improve citizen engagement, a stand-alone national public participation policy and legislation will need to be developed. The Office of the Attorney General is currently drafting a national public participation policy. That policy can include specific provisions on participation mechanisms during the formulation and implementation of the budget.
The next action plan should build on progress of current commitments concerning transparency, public participation and accountability of county budgets, particularly by strengthening the role of government actors relevant to this commitment, such as county budget officers, the Parliamentary Budget Office and Commission on Revenue Allocation.
The Kenya School of Government plans to carry out case studies on what is working at different stages of the budget process and use the findings to improve training courses for government officials on citizen engagement. In addition, the Commission on Revenue Allocation will update and enforce 2015 guidelines issued by County Budget and Economic Forums (including indicators and targets). These findings and activities can serve as a basis for developing ambitious citizen engagement commitments in the next action plan, particularly commitments that monitor whether meaningful citizen engagement occurs in practice, and learn from identifying best practices.
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