Mzalendo Trust is currently implementing an Open Governance Partnership (OGP) project modelled to enhance inclusive and citizen-centered governance.
The overarching objective of the initiative is to foster a proactive collaboration between national, and sub-national governments and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to facilitate multistakeholder engagement to entrench transparency, inclusiveness, accountable and responsive governance processes in Kenya.
The program through funding from the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) further, seeks to bolster public participation by creating opportunities for citizens to engage in innovative participatory processes between governments and civil societies.
So far, the program is being undertaken in four Counties including Elgeyo Marakwet, Makueni, Nandi and Nairobi. OGP further seeks to broaden its base by building coalitions with more counties as well as expanding the scope and diversity of actors.
Against this backdrop, Mzalendo Trust – the OGP civil society lead in Kenya organized a sensitization forum for Kisumu based CSOs and further engaged the local county leadership to foster a working relationship on implementing the noble course in Kisumu County.
Gitungo Wamere, Mzalendo Trust Senior Program Officer described the activity as a historic milestone in Kenya’s journey in advancing an open governance agenda and citizen participation at the grassroots level.
“Generally in Kenya, public participation has not been fully embraced. There is a lack of political goodwill to engage the public meaningfully when making government decisions,” stated Wamere.
Mr Wamere noted that the initiative was aimed at sharing knowledge on the subject to ensure the agenda of OGP is inculcated in governance to boost citizen participation in policymaking.
“Since the inception of OGP in Kenya in 2011, Makueni County has registered impressive strides in public participation through the formation of village development committees which bear powers to approve projects,” he said.
The platform catalyzes the establishment of a structured process for CSOs to participate in the formulation of government policies and programs to reform the civil sector.
At the onset, OGP implores the participating governments to work with CSOs to create and implement commitments related to open governance. These commitments formulated by national and sub-national governments seek to empower citizens, mitigate corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
Kenya’s OGP community has so far assented to various commitments geared towards promoting accountability as well as quality and timely service delivery to citizens at both national and county levels.
As a result of implementing the commitments, more so at the local level, Wamere observed that the proximity of citizens and the government spurs engagement and also shapes citizens’ perception of the government and with time demands for greater participation of people in decision-making processes in government structures.
So far, the robust partnership between the government and the civil society groups has propelled the implementation of the ambitious commitments on beneficial ownership, open contracting, open data for development, public participation and transparency in the legislative processes, access to information and justice as well as building an open government resiliency.
Notably, Kenya has used the OGP process to address corruption challenges in the public procurement systems in addition to setting aside 30 per cent of public procurement opportunities for women, youth and people with disabilities to ensure equal access to government contracts for underrepresented groups.
George Owuor, Executive Director at Transform Empowerment for Action Initiative (TEAMS), a CSO based in Kisumu, stressed on the need for citizens to be involved in public participation.
“Engaging meaningfully on governance is the only way citizen can ensure their elected and appointed representatives for various leadership positions are up to the task,” he stated.
He appealed to the elected leaders to promote accountability and observe the national values and principles as espoused in article 10 of the constitution.
By Robert Ojwang’