Residents of Nakuru County have been accused of neglecting their role when it comes to the running of County affairs by failing to attend County public participation forums.
The Kenyan constitution identifies public participation as crucial and critical component in the process of policy formulation, policy making and decision making both at the national and county government levels.
The budget making and the legislative processes are among the areas where public participation can never be compromised.
But in Nakuru County very few residents find it necessary to take part in public participation forums organized by the County Government.
Article 232(1) (d), of the Kenyan constitution states that values and principles of public service include the involvement of the people in the process of policy making while Article 232(1) (f) talks about transparency and provision to the public of timely and accurate information.
Section 113, of the County Governments Act makes public participation in county planning processes compulsory.
Section 87 of the same act stipulates the principles of public participation. They include timely access to information and reasonable access to planning and policy making process.
During public participation forums held across the County low turnout has always been major highlight with not more than 200 people being present at any given forum.
According Dan Murugu, a businessman and opinion leader in Nakuru town, majority of ordinary citizens and the business community are always unaware of public participation forums while some are just ignorant.
He noted that most of business people in Nakuru town see no need of attending public participation forums because they see no importance of such.
“People think that coming for such forums is wasting time and the county government must do a lot of sensitization t educate the public on the need and importance of public participation forums,” said Murugu.
He also noted that since the forums are being held during a working day most people find it difficult to close their businesses to attend the forums.
Ignorance of public views
Also emerging was the issue of the county government ignoring submissions about various issues which they receive from the public during the public participation forums.
Former Nakuru Mayor Benson Mwangi Wangai observed that he business community in Nakuru had no meaning to attend the public participation forums since none of the views they give get factored in by the county government.
“We as the business community have been attending these forums and giving our views but none of those views have ever been factored by the county government during the budgeting process,” he said.
“What is the need of us coming here giving views and memoranda year in year out and getting nothing in the end?” he posed.
The county government of Nakuru was also on the spot for delayed released of documents including the draft finance bill 2018 to members of the public
James Waweru a tuktuk driver from Nakuru town west said that the document was relatively detailed and the county government only supplied it to them at the opening of the session
“Some of us do not have access to the internet and telling us to download the draft bill is denying us our right to access information,” said Waweru.
He added “They cannot expect us to give our views about the finance bill when they are giving us the document during the session. They need to avail these documents well in advance for us to prepare our views”.
Some residents argue that they cannot make it to public participation forums because the County government does not facilitate their transportation to and from the venue.
Esther Wanjiru from the Bahati women caucus said that the ordinary mwananchi finds it hard to use his/her own money in attending the forum without being sure of what they will get in return.
“Most people as it is the Kenyan culture want to get something in return but as it is with such forums they get nothing and that keeps them off,” she said.
On his part Nakuru county executive member in charge of finance Joseph Kiuna agreed that there were some shortfalls in planning of public participation forums saying that the County government was doing all it can to streamline the process
He added that his department will seriously take into account the views being given by members of the public during the public participation forums
“I can assure the business community that their views will be taken into account and that things will change,” said Kiuna.
On the issue of facilitating participants attending public participation forums Kiuna defended the County government saying that it is the constitutional right of every citizen to attend such forums.
“They need to understand that when they attend these forums they are not doing it for the County government but for their own good and it should not appear as if we must pay them,” he said.
Regarding the accusations of ignoring public views, the County finance boss defended the County government arguing that some of the proposals get rejected at the County Assembly adding that so many proposals from the public also get factored in.
“Take for instance the issue of doing away with some taxes, reducing some and merging of licenses in some sectors which was implemented and this was a proposal from the public therefore one cannot say that we don’t factor in public views,” said Kiuna.