The Importance Of Public Participation In The Law Making Process In Kenya

Kenyans have been actively engaging in discussions about the Finance Bill 2024, emphasizing the importance of public participation in shaping such a legislation. There is a strong sentiment that the Bill, with its significant taxation changes, directly impacts people’s and therefore requires thorough scrutiny and debate. The public forums and participation sessions have been vibrant, with citizens voicing their concerns and suggestions.

Public participation in the legislative process in Kenya involves the engagement of citizens in the formulation, enactment and implementation of laws. This democratic process is enshrined in the Kenyan Constitution and is essential for ensuring that legislation reflects the needs and views of the public.

Public Participation is mentioned in several places in the Constitution, underscoring its importance in the governance and legislative process. To begin with, the preamble of the Constitution acknowledges the sovereign right of the people to participate in their governance.

The following are some of the key sections in the Constitution that talk about public participation.

  • Article 10: Lists public participation as one of the national values and principles that bind all State organs, State officers and Public officers whenever they are applying or interpreting the Constitution, making or interpreting any law or public policy decision.
  • Article 118: Requires Parliament to facilitate public involvement in any business of Parliament and its Committees.
  • Article 196: Requires that a County Assembly shall conduct its business in an open manner. This means holding its sittings in public and facilitating public participation in the business of the Assembly.
  • Paragraph 14 of Schedule 4 of the Constitution requires that County Governments involve their communities in the decision making process and governance activities. It also requires that the local governments help their communities to develop the necessary skills and resources needed to participate effectively. This may include things like training, providing information and any other support needed for meaningful public participation.

Apart from the Constitution, several laws and regulations have been established to ensure public participation in the legislative process. These laws provide specific frameworks and guidelines for how public participation should be conducted across different levels of government.

The following are some examples of laws designed to ensure public participation in the legislative process:

  • Public Participation Act (2018) This law provides a comprehensive legal framework for effective public participation. It outlines the principles of public participation, the obligation of public bodies, and the mechanisms for engaging the public in decision-making processes.
  • County Governments Act This law emphasizes the principles of public participation and provides guidelines for citizen involvement in County governance. It requires Counties to establish structures for public participation, such as town hall meetings, budget preparation forums and information communication platforms.
  • Urban Areas and Cities Act This law requires that residents of urban areas and cities are to be involved in governance through platforms that engage them in the decision making processes.
  • Public Finance Management Act This law stipulates that the National Treasury should ensure public participation in the budget process and other fiscal policies (the use of government spending and taxation to influence the economy). The Act mandates public participation in the budget preparation process at both the national and county levels.

These laws and others collectively establish a robust framework for public participation in Kenya’s legislative and governance processes ensuring that citizens have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives and communities.

Public participation in Kenya’s legislative process is a critical component of democratic governance. It promotes transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness. Currently, there are challenges to effective public participation so continuous efforts by the government, civil society and other stakeholders are needed to strengthen and improve these processes.

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