PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN COUNTY BUDGET MAKING PROCESS: A CASE OF MACHAKOS COUNTY GOVERNMENT

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ABSTRACT
The concept of citizen engagement in community activities is both “means” and “ends” of any effective democratic government. Incorporating citizen in development initiatives is a necessary effort to improving accountability and service delivery, and at the same time enabling them feel connected to their government. Governments the world over are increasingly pursuing participatory mechanism in an effort to develop their countries by reaching to the local communities, but challenges continue to hinder such a noble initiative. This study endeavors to examine the role of effective public participation in county budget making process in Machakos County, with an aim of understanding the contribution of citizens participation in budgeting processes. Respondents in this study were sampled with consideration that Machakos County is a cosmopolitan area, mimicking both the urban and rural households, where the researcher mirrored on Yathui and Masii wards, giving a good representation of the findings. This study used mixed-research approach to ensure that empirical evidence is obtained bringing together both quantitative and qualitative methods, to offset the weaknesses of each single method, and expands the set of data collected. Questionnaire and interview guide were the research instruments used in data collection, using survey and key informant interview respectfully as the research methods. The study adopted stratified random sampling for survey and purposive sampling for key informant to get an all-inclusive study population. This is necessary when the population is heterogeneous, and it is possible in establishing strata which are homogeneous within each one. The study found that public participation as a key development strategy was not well embraced in facilitating budget making process in Machakos County and that there are still many challenges that hinder citizen from taking an active role in public participation activities, particularly in budget making process. Further, public participation in Machakos County is mostly a top-down affair, which makes the initiative lack its spirit as envisaged in Kenya constitution 2010.Whilst the county government of Machakos has put in place some legislative framework in relation to public participation, the study found out that there is strong need to bridge the gap between the legal framework and actual practice on the ground, by making public participation approaches practical. Further the county government should establish an all-inclusive mechanism and ensure the widest public participation process is achieved. Each county government should embrace a communication framework which best fits its citizens and engages the wider masses to take an active role in public participation initiatives, hence boosting the development agenda of the local communities. The study was significant as it enabled the researcher to have an in-depth understanding on the challenges faced by citizens in their endeavor to take an active role in public participation activities. Based on the study findings, it was recommended that the national government in liaison with the devolved units should develop a national policy framework to guide public participation activities in the county governments. Further the citizen should continue to sensitize its citizen on the importance of their involvement in budgeting process.

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