Almost ten years since Kenya introduced the devolved system of government there are still notable gaps experienced by the Senate in effectively exercising its mandate in support of effective devolution. Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) in Kenya has continued to strengthen parliament’s role in holding the executive accountable. This is by providing technical support to Senate to respond to opportunities for improving democratic processes and practices. WFD works with a broad range of stakeholders, including parliamentary caucuses, committees, staff, and departments in efforts to achieving this.
As the Senate prepares to usher its 3rd session after the August 9th general elections, WFD has been delivering capacity building support to the Senate through the Senate Liaison Office (SLO) on various key interventions.
Technical support to Senate
WFD supported the development of the Senate Liaison Office (SLO) 2022-2027 strategy. The strategy includes innovative ways of engagement through which the Senate will build and sustain relationships with intergovernmental institutions, devolutions actors, civil society, and citizens. The strategy highlights practical approaches towards strengthening the SLOs ability to coordinate, share information, and build relationships amongst devolution actors in support of more effective public service delivery and public financial management. The strategy was developed through a consultative, collaborative and co-creation process with individuals and officials within and beyond the Senate. It will improve the visibility of the Senate in relation to fulfilling its mandate of representing and protecting the interests of the counties and their governments as provided for in the constitution.
WFD also supported Senate to develop an online database for tracking county legislation, which will increase support for legislative openness. Through the database, legislators will work alongside other state and non-state actors to commit to improvements in transparency, participation, and accountability. The database will also be used by the Senate to track and monitor County Assembly legislation from all the 47 counties and ensure relevant legislation is in place to will promote more effective public service delivery and public financial management at the county level.
The county legislation tracker is a major step in increasing public access and engagement to information on county legislation which they can use to engage their county assemblies or the Senate. The database is open to the public to view and download progress of county bills and tell the backlog of each of the bills in the assembly – allowing for meaningful engagements on the bills.
Additionally, WFD provided technical support to Senate to improve the delivery of the standing Committee on Devolution and Inter-governmental Relations (CDIR) effectiveness. The participatory review and restructuring of the committee is aimed at enhancing the technical capacity of the committee to improve its effectiveness and promote transparency and accountability. The committee performs the key responsibility of enhancing accountability of devolution structures and offices. However, in the past two terms it did not record any progress in delivery of its mandate beyond arbitration engagements in ongoing intra-county disputes.
The committees’ role supports the work of other Senate committees as well as continuing oversight and post-legislative scrutiny to ensure implementation of House resolutions as they pertain to protecting and strengthening devolution. The review has proposed practical strategies and recommendations that will strengthen the performance of the incoming committee in the 13th Parliament. This is in line with the Senates constitutional mandate and guiding rules of procedure.
The products developed from these interventions will be included in the Senate’s induction process for the 13th parliament after the August 9 polls. They will also address some of the challenges experienced by Senate in its first and second terms. That is, after the 2013 and 2017 elections and since the promulgation of the 2010 constitution which ushered in the devolved system of government.