Effects of Public Participation on Legislation by the Kenya National Assembly
Imbo, Victor Weke
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Public participation in policy making has become entrenched in democratic principles of governance in Kenya. Policy formulation is very critical in legislation because it is the point at which various causes of action are prescribed towards certain challenges. This has hitherto been a preserve of the governing elite with the role of non-state actors now gaining prominence. Kenya enacted a constitution in 2010 of which public participation stands out, with all government activities required to conform to this principle. Seven years later and it is still not yet clear if progress has been made to entrench this letter and indeed spirit of the law in our national culture, specifically in policy formulation through national legislation. The first objective of this study was to ascertain the level of public awareness. Further, the study sought to interrogate the process institutionalized by the National Assembly to actualize constitutional requirements relevant to public participation, and went further to establish the extent to which outcomes of legislation and policy are influenced by the design of this participation. The study conducted in the cosmopolitan Nairobi City County used descriptive research design and a random sample of 200 members of the public from a target population of approximately 3 million residents, on their awareness and participation levels. Interviews of key resource persons in the legislative process were also conducted, including civil society organizations that had participated before. These key personnel were identified purposively as they were adjudged to be in the heart of the legislative process in Kenya. Theories of participative and deliberative democracy that offers citizens real democratic power over the state and the neo-liberal market-oriented approach that entrenches participation are the theoretical basis of the research. Content analysis was used to analyze open ended questions and secondary data, while measures of central tendency were used to analyze responses from closed questions. The study found that public participation has had little effect on outcome of legislation by the National Assembly. This was because there was low awareness by the public, compounded by faulty process and design of the participation process by the National Assembly. The research recommends that the public should be intensely sensitized, the National Assembly should use media with wider coverage, strengthened constituency offices and provision of adequate time to Committees to process Bills.