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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is devolution?

Devolution refers to the two tier-system of government i.e. National government which is charged with nationally shared public responsibilities and 47 county governments which are charged with the responsibility delivering basic public services such as healthcare, Agriculture and water supply across various regions of the country. Collectively national and county governments are responsible for the collective development of Kenya as adopted through promulgation of the constitution 2010.  Devolution means the transfer of political power and economic resources, from the national government (center) to the county(local) governments. Devolution is meant to achieve the objectives stated in Article 174 of the constitution which include addressing marginalization and inequalities, facilitation of people at local to make own decisions and influence governance (public participation)

2. How do I know what level of government is responsible for what service?

Article 186 and the fourth schedule of the constitution outlines different functions for each level of the government. It is imperative to note that there are those functions which exclusively belong to either level of government, concurrent and others which are not assigned to any level of government, thus they belong to the national government, (refer to Article, 186 (3). Importantly, a close analysis of the fourth schedule of the constitution, it can be deduced that national government is majorly assigned responsibilities relating the policy, regulatory and capacity building related functions; whereas county governments are assigned responsibilities relating to delivery of primary services and implementation of national policies.

3.What is public participation?

Public participation is a constitutional requirement that citizens take an active role, whether directly or indirectly, in the governance process to influence decision/policies made by their governments that affect their lives either directly or indirectly. It is a process that allows citizens to align government decisions to their needs and preferences. In the event that citizens fail to participate or locked out of decision making, there is a very high chance that government priorities and actions may not address the real needs of citizens

4.How can citizens participate in decision?

Besides the avenues provided for by the constitution and subsequent legislation such as PFM Act 2012 and County Government Act 2012 which both provide for the involvement of citizens in county planning and budgeting, citizens are presented with other various forms and opportunities for participation throughout decision-making processes.  For example, in budget making processes, citizens can participate through the following avenues among others:

  1. Open public forums organized by county and national government organs
  2. By submitting memoranda to both county and national government organs including county and national assemblies.
  3. Through civil society organization that acts as a voice of citizens where citizens are not well organized to represent themselves and may also need the capacity to participate.

5. What are the key stages that a citizen should be aware of, while considering opportunities for participation?

Key opportunities in the budget process and generally, what we refer to public finance management for citizens to participate include the following: –

·         The budget-making process (also known as budget formulation) (CoK, 2010, Article 201(a)) starting August to June 30 every year. This stage has two parts: part 1 starts in August to April 30 every year while part II starts from May 1 to June 30 every year.

·         Budget implementation stage starting July to June 30 every year.

·         Budget evaluation and audit stage, a continuous process throughout the year.

·         Legislative and policy-making process (CoK, 2010, Article 118 (1) (b); 196 (1) (b)).


6. What is public finance?

Public finance is the process, procedures and rules applied in the management of a country’s (and county’s) plan to raise and spend revenue (public resources), as well as public debt (government borrowing and payments) through various government institutions. The output of public finance is captured by government policies such as strategic government planning documents and budgets.

7.What is a government budget?

A government budget is a document that outlines government plans to raise (collect) taxes and spends (deliver public services) – we refer this process as public finance management (PFM). Government budget, therefore, is a financial plan that translates government policies, strategies and political promises to development (also known as public goods and services.  The process of developing a government budget is referred to as budgeting and, it is important that citizens participate to align the government’s plans to their needs and preferences.

8. What are the main stages of the budget process and are there opportunities for citizens to participate?

As discussed earlier, the main stages in the planning and budgeting process are:

·         Formulation Stage handled by the executive arm of government. This stage presents an opportunity for citizens to shape government spending plans and priorities to meet their service and development needs.

·         Approval Stage handled by the legislative arm of government. Once the budget is formulated (previous stage), the legislature – national and county assembly – have 60 days starting May 1 to June 30 to review the budget with aim of ensuring the budget aligns to citizens’ preference and aspirations and, subsequently approves the same (also known as enactment) in the readiness of implementation. Through budget hearings, citizens have the opportunity to confirm that their aspirations are properly captured before the budget is enacted.

·         Implementation Stage is also handled by the Executive Arm. Once the budget enacted as discussed in the previous stage by the legislature, the processes and responsibility shift back to the Executive Arm.

·         Audit and evaluation Stage is primarily and constitutionally handled by the country’s supreme audit institution – the Office of the Auditor General (https://www.oagkenya.go.ke/). The OAG assess governments – national and county – and generates reports on the government’s performance in implementing its budget and respect of public finance management processes. The legislature is also mandated by the constitution through its primary oversight function.  

9. What are some of the budget documents and infromation I shoud be aware of as a citizen?

The Public finance Management Act(PFMA), 2012 outlines key budget documents that should be produced and presented for the public through the budget cycle. Article 35 of the constitution and the recently enacted Access to Information Act 2015 gives citizens the right to access this information and documents, some of which are listed below:

  • The Budget Review and Outlook Paper (BROP)
  • The Budget Policy Statement (BPS)
  • The Debt Management Strategy (DMS
  • County Integrated and development plan(CIDP)
  • County Budget Review and Outlook Paper(CBROP)
  • Annual Development Plan(ADP)
  • County Fiscal and Strategy Paper (CFSP)
  • Budget Implementation Reports (BIRs)

10. How and by which means is the sharing of revenue between the national and county governments determined?

The constitution of Kenya, 2010, under article 202 (1) has allocated the responsibility of determining (Art 203 (1)) how nationally raised revenue is shared between national and county governments, and among county governments to an independent institution called the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA). The process of sharing revenue is a consultative process that involves the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA), the National Treasury, Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC), the National Assembly and the Senate as well as citizens and both levels of government. The Commission on Revenue Allocation and the national treasury make recommendations to parliament (National assembly and Senate) concerning the basis for equitable sharing of revenue raised by the national government, between national and county governments. The recommendations inform the Division of Revenue bill which is tabled before parliament (national assembly and the Senate) around February each financial year for consideration and approval. Note that, part of the constitutional mandate allocated to CRA include the development of criteria (Art 203 )1) to guide the revenue sharing, popularly known as the CRA formula.

11. As a citizen, what opportunities exist for to track whether my government is spending public funds on the right priorities and in the right way?

Organizations such as International Budget Partnership have developed tools and resources e.g. how to read and use the controller of budget report to facilitate citizens to assess their government spending. Citizens should, therefore, access budget implementation reports produced on a quarterly and annual basis, by respective governments – national and county governments as well as other budget implementation reports produced by Controller of Budgets (CoB) and use such tools to read and assess the performance of their respective counties and national government.  Other important reports are the auditor general reports which are produced annually. Refer to the budget cycle accessible here for the full calendar on when these reports are produced https://www.internationalbudget.org/wp-content/uploads/ibp_kenya_budget_calendar_2015.pdf

12. Who is Controller of Budget?

The controller of Budget also known as COB is an independent institution established under article 228 (1) to oversee budget implementation by authorizing withdrawals of funds from the consolidated public fund’s accounts.

13. Does poor management of public resources affect service delivery?

Just like the saying, funds follow functions. Poor management of public funds can hinder effective service delivery since this implies funds/resources will not perform the intended functions hence obstructing access to quality services. This is why audit reports are important in order to establish whether the public funds were used lawfully and effectively

14. Are things like high unemployment and poor services delivery relate to government budgets in any way and what is the role of citizens in addressing such issues?

It is true that unemployment is high in Kenya and yes, there is the direct connection to how governments plan and budget to meet the needs of its citizens. Similarly, poor service delivery for example inaccessibility to medical drugs results from poor planning and budgeting by the government in which case, the priorities, and plans do not align with the needs and preference of citizens or funds have been misappropriated.  In such cases, citizens should both participate in the process of determining how government spend and subsequently monitor the use of such funds, what is normally called budget implementation tracking.