How Average Citizens are Helping Set Budget Priorities in Kenya

09.01.2015

“There is no development that can be done if it’s not budgeted for.” These are the words of Edwin Kiprono, the president of Kerio Community Trust Fund, explaining the importance of citizen’s alternative budgets in Kenya.

In 2010, Kenya adopted a new constitution, establishing a system of devolution in which more control and responsibility was shifted from the national government to newly-created county-level governments. These governments, which began operating in 2013, now oversee certain aspects of local health care, infrastructure, and education. For the first time, the counties are now expected to raise their own revenue through taxes and fees and establish their own budgets for spending that revenue.

Such a move provides great opportunity for local development to be taken into the hands of local citizens – but it also requires citizens to be engaged and provide input and feedback to their local governments.

Throughout Kenya, CIPE has been working with local partners to develop citizen’s alternative budgets – a system of participatory budgeting made possible through the devolved government system. One of the counties CIPE has been working in is Elgeyo Marakwet – a diverse county in which citizens have various and competing concerns and opinions on what the priorities of their county should be when developing a budget and spending its resources.

Through the citizen’s alternative budget process, citizens in Elgeyo Marakwet have had the opportunity to provide input into and participate in the county’s budget-making process. Eliud Chirchir, a farmer in Elgeyo Marakwet, praised this development: “Initially citizens were not involved in decision making at the grass root level,” he said. “However after devolution we are stakeholders in decisions made on development at the county level.”

Through the citizen’s alternative budget, the scope of those who participate in governance has widened and the process has given power to ordinary Kenyan citizens at the grassroots level. According to John Ondego, the Interim County Secretary of Elgeyo Marakwet County, the devolution process allows citizens to participate and decide their destiny in development.

They are able to ensure that their priorities are captured in the budget making process, explains CIPE’s Field Representative in Kenya Ben Kiragu. “This process has allowed the voice of the marginalized and of the grassroots person to be heard and reflected in the budget making process,” he says.

Not only does the process allow citizens to craft how the county spends its resources; it also empowers citizens to hold their local governments accountable. In Elgeyo Marakwet, when citizens began participating in the budget-making process, they also began ensuring sure that the services that were budgeted for are delivered appropriately. Through the participatory process, citizens have become aware of the services they should be receiving. When they don’t receive the services they are supposed to, they now complain to the government, holding it accountable to its budgetary promises.

Watch the video to learn more about citizens of Elgeyo Marakwet are taking development into their own hands.

Ryan Musser is a Program Assistant for Africa at CIPE.