Supporting a more inclusive and accountable Parliament for all Kenyans
Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) believes in democratic political systems that are fair, inclusive, transparent and accountable. In support of this cause, WFD has been working with the Kenyan Parliament since 2011 and has supported the institution to build its capacity in areas of research, oversight, law-making, and citizen engagement.
Currently, WFD Kenya is implementing the Inclusive and Accountable Politics programme (IAP) in partnership with civil society organizations (CSOs), the African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption (APNAC) and both Houses of Parliament — the Senate and the National Assembly. The IAP programme envisions the legislature as being a more open, efficient, and responsive democratic institution.
CSOs as critical representatives of citizens
As a step towards strengthening the engagement between Parliament and citizens, WFD supported the establishment of Civil Society Parliamentary Engagement Network (CSPEN). The network mobilises CSOs as critical representatives of citizens.
To support the institutionalisation of CSPEN, WFD provided technical assistance as the network developed its parliamentary engagement strategy. The strategy provides for various approaches and a broad framework of activities that guides the network in engaging parliament.
CSPEN plays the pivotal role of bringing together actors who can effectively:
- Provide links between citizen needs as represented by CSOs and Parliament;
- Provide opportunities for dialogue on key legislative, representational and oversight issues between CSOs and Parliament;
- Involve CSOs in the policy making process;
- Disrupt barriers that exist between the two actors;
- Provide a mechanism for learning and information sharing from each other.
With support from WFD, CSPEN also proactively compiled a memorandum of views on the Public Participation Bill, 2019, which it presented to the National Assembly. The Bill is essential in the push for transparency and accountability, a milestone towards realization of Kenyan Parliament’s commitment under Open Government Partnership (OGP) National Acton Plan (NAP III). One of the highlights of the memorandum submits that in enacting legislation, both houses of Parliament and County Assemblies should ensure that the spirit of public participation is attained both quantitatively and qualitatively.
The issues of funding, compliance, access to information, accessibility, and feedback mechanisms were raised and recommendations were made on how these factors could be used to augment the bill. For example, when it comes to funding, public participation was found to be hampered by the inadequate resourcing from the relevant government agencies. It was therefore proposed that the Bill should provide for allocation of resources towards public participation in every financial year.
In addition, WFD provided technical support to CSPEN in the review of the Building Bridges Initiatives (BBI) taskforce recommendations, especially on sections that affected parliamentary work. CSPEN then shared their views with the BBI taskforce for consideration, which included proposals for an independent and impartial mediation process between the Senate and the National assembly on the Division of Revenue and County Allocation Revenue Bills.
Supporting Parliamentarians to combat corruption
WFD has also registered progress working with the Kenyan Parliament through the main anti-corruption parliamentary caucus, APNAC. WFD supported the development of the APNAC strategic plan 2019-2023 which gives the caucus strategic focus, helping position it as proactive in the fight against corruption.
APNAC’s involvement in anti-graft work through press statements, opinion pieces and even social media platforms is key in communicating the Parliament’s commitment to transparency and accountability. APNAC has also been involved in the fundamental parliamentary sittings where the committee of health was investigating the alleged misappropriation of the emergency funds that had been set aside to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya.
In an opinion piece on the issue of embezzlement of the COVID-19 emergency funds, APNAC’s chairperson Hon. Shakeel Shabbir wrote that:
“To address the corruption menace, a lot needs to be done but the following needs to be prioritized: develop minimum standards and guidelines for transparent and accountable procurement system, set up and implement a community of practice devoted to transparent and accountable procurement and pursuit of value for money, dedicate resources to procurement training and monitoring, invest in research on the practice of procurement within Kenya and constantly and publicly monitor progress towards implementation of procurement minimum standards.”
The proposals are a clear depiction of how WFD’s involvement has propelled APNAC’s growth in the collective pursuit to facilitate a more accountable democratic political system. Not only does the network highlight the challenges of the day with regards to corruption, but it also recommends feasible solutions.
WFD continues to provide technical support to both APNAC and CSPEN in championing key policies and laws that are geared towards strengthening the position of both houses of the Kenyan Parliament on transparency and accountability. WFD is presently working with APNAC to review existing parliamentary procedures to assess the extent to which they support transparent and accountable practices in Kenya.