One of the most crucial of these government processes relates to budget making at both national and county levels.
However, a recent assessment by the International Budget Partnership on budget transparency in Kenyan counties shows that all is not well. The assessment showed that only two county governments had published budget documents online at the time of the study.
This lack of transparency is alarming because Kenya’s public finance management system is designed to be a participatory one where citizens and their governments build consensus on service delivery and development priorities.
The Public Finance Management Act of 2012 prescribes everything that is supposed to happen in Kenya regarding public finance management.
Not only is it alarming that county governments are not publishing key budget documents online, it is also illegal.
The Public Finance Management Act, Part 2 of Section 125 states that the County Executive Committee member for Finance shall ensure that there is public participation in the budget making process, including publishing budget documents quarterly.
In 2016, Parliament passed the Access to Information Act, 2016 to officially activate Article 35 of the Constitution on access to information. The Act, 2016 is a game changer in at least three ways.
First, it makes it mandatory for county governments to proactively publish information in their custody. This includes documents relating to the budget making. Section 3 indicates that as soon as practicable after having passed any budget document, publish and publicise it.
Second, the law assigns responsibility of ensuring that public agencies comply with the law. Chief executive officers of public agencies are assigned the role of information access officers.
Third, the law has provision on sanctions that information access officers, are liable to in the event that their agencies do not proactively publish certain information.
Considering that the law is clear that county governments must publish budget information, and that counties have the internet as a powerful tool to publish budget information, there is no excuse.Counties must do better and publish budget information to facilitate public participation in budget making.