NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 19 – There is a rising concern over the poor participation by members of the public in contributing to the law making process.
During a public hearing by the Senate Finance and Budget Committee to gather views on the County Allocation of Revenue Bill 2015 which breaks down how much each county will receive every financial year, only one member of the public showed up raising questions on whether the information was adequately disseminated or whether they simply chose to ignore the proceedings.
Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o who chaired the session on behalf of Mandera’s Billow Kerrow said the poor response was alarming proposing a change in the medium of communication as it appeared the information was not reaching the masses.
“The Senate advertised this meeting in the major newspapers. But I have expressed my concern to the staff here; I think we need to use FM stations because they have a wider reach and are more effective; we can also use social media,” said Nyong’o.
His counterpart Majority Whip Beatrice Elachi who was also present noted the poor turnout but blamed it on the endless feud between the two houses which is now denting the image of Parliament.
She said this was causing the public question the seriousness of the members of Parliament in performing their roles.
“Members of the public are frustrated. When they see the Houses fighting, they will wonder whether they will hear the fight or the substance of debate – we should put our houses in order so as to restore public confidence in Parliament,” stated Elachi.
She however added that while the ongoing supremacy wars were a deterrent to the public contributing to the law making process, Kenyans were afraid of contributing to matters finance due to their complex nature.
“Dealing with finances can put off people, if it was an easy subject people will come,” posed Elachi.
Her sentiments were reiterated by Njoroge Waweru, the only member of the public who honoured the summons and presented a memorandum to the committee.
“People are losing faith in the Senate, they believe it is a busy body that is why they don’t attend their functions. This is not the first function of the Senate that has received public apathy,” regretted Waweru.
Waweru also accused certain forces of sitting on the Public Participation Bill which has yet to come to the House saying this was a plot to prevent transparency.
The County Allocation of Revenue Bill which was tabled before the Senate on Tuesday will see counties get an equitable share of Sh259billion of the Sh287 billion total allocation, they will also get about Sh10 billion in grants and over Sh16 billion ion conditional grants.
Nyong’o further took issue with the fact that the National Government was still holding on to some functions which must be devolved saying this was negatively impacting service delivery.
He said not less than 60 percent of the National Budget should go to counties adding that basic education and water functions should not be under the National government.
He added that County Governments were being blamed for functions that were not their responsibility as they were the closest to the people.
He said they will put a standard allocation to counties according to schedule four of the Constitution when they kick off their referendum bid.
Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi decried the laxity by members of the public in participating in public forum this after it emerged that no memoranda supporting or opposing the nomination of water Cabinet secretary Eugene Wamalwa had been received.
He urged the media to assist parliament in conducting civic education on the importance of public participation and what was required of them.