Community participation is a principal that is enshrined in the Kenyan constitution. Yet many Kenyans do not even know about their right to participate or how they can actually make use of that right. Local public offices have a duty to ensure that decisions regarding the use of public funds are the result of transparent, effective and ethical processes which adhere to the law and stand up to scrutiny by the Kenyan public.
Since the promulgation of the constitution of Kenya in 2010, Haki Yetu continues to address the low participation of vulnerable communities in public affairs by building citizen action groups and holding the government to account when it comes to the mobilization and utilization of public funds. However, community participation is marred with challenges: Lack of involvement of the public in National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) projects, lack of civic awareness on the right to participate, passive public participation by citizens, lack of skills and knowledge to elect local persons of integrity into project management committees (PMC) and so on. Haki Yetu therefore builds the capacity of local citizen action groups to be able to get involved in project planning, implementation and monitoring of ward level projects and thereby bring the power to bring positive change to the communities.
The Hamasisha citizen action group based in Tiribe village has been in the forefront in advocating and lobbying for change within Mkongani ward, Matuga constituency. On the 10th Dec 2019 Haki Yetu – governance team in collaboration with the citizens of Tiribe, conducted a mapping exercise to learn about emerging governance issues and to consolidate efforts in holding leaders accountable. The exercise brought together women, men, youth, religious leaders and community focal contact persons. As the mapping exercise proceeded, one participant said:
“Bwana Tandaza – Mbunge wetu hapa Tiribe ametusadia sana, anatumia hella zake za mfuko vizuri kuleta maendeleo na mabadiliko Tiribe – Twashukuru.” translated “Our area member of parliament has been utilizing his personal resources for development within our area, unto him we are grateful.”
This demonstrates the low levels of awareness among communities, where the perception is that an elected leader implements projects out of the goodness of their hearts. Comments like this point to the urgent need to inform communities of sensitize communities on their rights and the responsibilities of the government/elected leaders.
Haki Yetu in partnership with the community organized and got registered a citizens’ lobby group, Tiribe Hamasisha Action Group. The group was registered in November 2020, with the main aim of improving their livelihood by actively participating local governance.
Following a series of capacity building sessions courtesy of Haki Yetu, the group began to get more involved in governance and accountability issues, focusing on stalled public projects in their community. They conducted research on stalled and substandard NG-CDF projects within their ward. Their research exposed:
- The substandard construction and renovation of select primary and secondary school classrooms by NG-CDF,
- Poor surface (impassable during rainy season) roads constructed by KURA, and
- Budget allocation for sporting activities for youth and education bursaries that have never been awarded.
The group visited the Matuga NG-CDF constituency office in Kwale town for a meeting to seek answers on the stalled, and sub-standard projects. One of the outcomes of the meeting was the need for NG-CDF to conduct public participation meetings. The first public participation forum in four years was conducted on the 12th December 2021 in Mkongani Kirewe social. It was attended by Mr. Tandaza, area member of parliament, who is the patron of Matuga NG-CDF, the chairman of NG-CDF Matuga and more than 300 community members.
“Hili warsha, imetendeka baada ya sisi na shirika la Haki Yetu kutembelea afisi za constituency, hatungewatembelea na kutoa maoni yetu, hakuna lisilo tendeka’.”
“This public participation has taken place because of our bold step and encouragement by Haki Yetu. If we had not confronted the authorities, would have no conducted the public participation forum.” Kassim– resident of Tiribe
Community participation in projects planning and implementation has since improved. Some of the projects that have been completed or seen improvement as a result of the public participation include:
- The road culverts from Shimba hills park to Tiribe town have been renovated as compared to the last season when the blocked culverts would not drain water.
- There was an issue surrounding land boundary and a fence that was to be built around the Tiribe Primary School. The NG-CDF tasked the citizen action group to address the school boundary issue before allocating funds for fencing as requested by the members. That issue has since been resolved, and construction of the fence received an allocation of funds.
- A classroom block funded by NG-CDF has been constructed in Chanyiro primary school and one more classroom was successfully renovated in Tiribe Primary school in response to a request by the citizen action group as the population of children in the area is rising.
- The citizen action group has also successfully advocated for the dismissal of a head teacher who was involved in the misappropriation of funds. A new head teacher took charge in January 2022.