Public participation gives citizens the opportunity to influence decision-making when it comes to governance processes at the county level. It is a two-way process because the government provides the opportunity for citizens to get involved and citizens choose whether to utilize that opportunity or not. In Kenya, public participation in governance is well articulated in the constitution and in other supporting legislations.
Article 10 of the Constitution highlights public participation as a principle and value of good governance. Further, in Article 201(a), the constitution highlights public participation as among the principles that guide public finance in addition to openness and accountability in financial matters. Sections 30 and 32 of the County Government Act task governors with the responsibility of promoting and facilitating citizen participation in the development of county policies and plans as well as service delivery. Governors are also expected to submit annual reports to county assemblies highlighting how citizens participate in public affairs within the county. Public participation offers numerous benefits to citizens and the country at large. These benefits include:
1. Opportunity for citizens to inform county priorities
Involving citizens in decision-making processes at the county level results ensures that they have a chance to decide what the county should prioritize. This leads to planning that responds to citizen needs because county governments are able to focus resources on the issues that matter most to citizens. For the public, this means better access to quality services, better governance, and development.
2. Public participation reduces corruption
When citizens participate in governance processes, they are able to monitor how public resources are utilized and hold public officers to account for the delivery of services. By doing so, citizens would ensure rational utilization of public resources and provide a safeguard against wastage and leakage of funds due to corruption.
3. Public participation empowers marginalized groups
Through public participation, marginalized groups such as the poor in the community and those that are underrepresented in political spheres like the youth, women, and children get empowered. Forums for public participation forums provide excellent platforms that introduce mechanisms for amplifying the voice of citizens on matters that affect them most. Consequently, this can help reduce poverty and lead to sustainable development.
4. Increase government revenue
For the government, public participation is critical in boosting revenue collection. By helping citizens get a better understanding of the budgeting process, county governments help citizens understand the financial limitations and challenges the government faces. As such, citizens may start appreciating the importance of paying taxes, charges, fees, and levies and this could boost government revenue.