Kenya's Elgeyo Marakwet County Hosts Africa OGP Convention

Three African regional governments converged in Elgeyo Marakwet County, Kenya on May 2 to share experiences and successes of efforts made in making their governments more transparent and accountable to citizens.

It was the first time the local governments were meeting since their inclusion in the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

Representatives from Kaduna State in Nigeria, Kigoma Ujiji in Tanzania, and Sekondi Takoradi in Ghana held a peer to peer learning workshop at Kerio River Lodge, attended by Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos, OGP’s Local Program Manager Brittany Lane and Senior Program Officer Gustavo Perez, and Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) researcher Ruth Kendagor.

Elgeyo Marakwet, Kaduna, Kigoma, and Sekondi are among twenty regional governments chosen to participate in OGP, alongside 76 national governments worldwide.

Speaking at the workshop, Governor Tolgos appreciated the participation of the regional governments in OGP, saying it would help shape a new and progressive citizen-centric governance style.

He said governments in Africa should adopt reforms to make governance more inclusive, and expand decision-making in development.

“Gone are the days when government was a closed shop. We are in a new era where we should be responsive and accountable to our citizens. We should inform, consult, involve, and collaborate with them in governance,” he said.

Under OGP mentorship, Tolgos cited milestones made in Elgeyo Marakwet in the area of public participation, including the recent process of developing the next County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) for 2018 to 2022.

He said the County is among the few counties where 60 percent of its annual budget is decided on by the public, under the County’s Equitable Development Act.

“In the new CIDP  process, we moved from just engaging our people to separating them into sectors where they have local expertise, to give their input on the County development agenda for the next five years,” said Tolgos.

The Governor also said the County had forged close collaboration with civil society organizations operating in Elgeyo Marakwet, enabling their involvement and participation in county governance.

Kigoma North MP Zitto Kabwe cited a program initiated by the Kigoma Municipality that keeps track of medical supplies bought for local health facilities.

“Ever since we adopted this program, we have seen a drastic reduction of loss of medical supplies, which now go into the intended purposes of treating our people,” he said.

Yusuf Auta, a government official from Kaduna State, said the state was working towards e-governance, and cited the development of a mobile phone-based application that helps citizens locate and access public projects.

“The app enables citizens to post concerns or complaints which are then relayed in a web-based dashboard to senior government officials for action,” he said.

Sekondi-Takoradi City’s Development Planner, Mr Isaac Aidoo, highlighted a move by the regional government to involve citizens in policing by hiring neighbourhood watch groups to supplement the work done by police.

“The volunteers are given equipment and uniform by the regional government to help the police in a community policing program,” he said.

Aidoo also highlighted an initiative to engage the public through radio talk shows bringing together city officials and the public to discuss the affairs of the government.

“The shows are held in a town hall and aired live to a listening audience who get to ask questions and make recommendations on the running of the city,” said Aidoo.

The convention was attended by civil society partners based in the local governments, who appreciated OGP for creating a platform for government and civil society to work together for the betterment of their communities.

“The new concept of co-creation introduced to us by OGP has provided an avenue for synergy building between civil society and government. Indeed, we have become stronger together through OGP,” said Timothy Kiprono, from the Centre for Innovation in Open Governance (CIOG) based in Kenya.

Authors: Vincent Bartoo
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