Public Participation in Governance and Legislation: A Case of Murang'a County, Kenya
Mwati, Douglas Kanguru
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Direct public participation is an essential component of good governance. Public engagement has been adopted to mitigate the failures of representation, promote inc1usivenessand social accountability. There lacks a reasonable threshold on who are the stakeholders in legislative and policy proposals since the definition of public is allinclusive, yet the realities of operation cannot allow the involvement of all the 'publics.' The nature of engagement that qualifies as public participation has not been clearly defined. The study sought to evaluate the forms of public engagement, assess the influence of public participation on governance and legislation processes while establishingthe process challenges. This study was grounded on the Social Choice theory andthe new public management theory. The concept of a society using analysis and logic in picking a social choice where opinions, economic interests and social welfare arecombinedto form a collective decision. There is focus on the premises of the new public management theory where the public is viewed as a client and the government as a service provider. The client pursues value for his/ her contribution to the state and therefore, participates in deciding the public service that is on offer and how to improve it. The study focused on the place of public participation as a best practice in governance and as a statutory requirement in Kenya. The adoption of a decentralized governance framework in Kenya and the legal force bestowed upon public participation guides the critical appraisal of the public participation practice in a devolved unit. The study targeted approximately 500,000 residents of Murang'a County who are above the age of majority. This is a case study in a descriptive design. The sample size of the study was 100 calculated using Slovin's formula. Questionnaires and interview guide were used in data collection. Murang'a County government employs public meetings, radio, social media, emails, websites and written memorandum submissions as forms of public participation. The findings show that public participation positively influences governance and legislative process in Murang'a County. The main challenges facing p~blic participation are ineffective publicity; inadequate funds and political interferences. Th~ study recommends increased public awareness of the available forms of public participation. and an increased budgetary allocation to enable participation at the ward levels. The study also recommends further research on other determinants of good governance and legislative processes in the devolved units.