Public Participation in the Policy Making Process: An Evaluation of Makueni County, Kenya
M’mbone, Nyong’a Eunice
Gachanja, Paul M.
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The purpose of the study was to evaluate public participation in the policy making process in Makueni County. This was so because, despite the Makueni County Government generally accepted framework for public participation, there is limited information on how that framework has impacted or been used in the policy making process. Specifically, the study sought to assess the extent of awareness by the residents of Makueni of their democratic right and opportunities to participate in the policy making process; analyzed the levels of citizens involvement in policy making processes in Makueni County; established the perception towards public participation in policy making process by residents and management in Makueni County; and determined the barriers to public participation in policy making process by residents and management in Makueni County. The study was anchored on Stakeholder Theory, Arnstein’s Ladder and the Multi Streams Model. The study was hinged on descriptive survey research design and targeted the 884,527 residents of Makueni and the 217 County Public service Departmental staff in Makueni County. Stratified sampling was used to delineate 117 staff in terms of their positions, whether management or operations excluding the subordinate staff. Simple random sampling was used to get 396 residents. Focus Group Discussions and questionnaires were the primary data collection instruments. Quantitative data was analyzed using descriptive statistics in form of percentages and frequencies. Linear regression model analysis was also used to analyze data. The results established that the residents were unaware of their democratic right and opportunities for participation in policy making process in Makueni County. There were also low levels of citizens’ involvement in policy making processes in Makueni County. Further, perception about public participation by residents was both negative for those who felt let down by the county management and positive for those who mainly felt hopeful that despite those challenges, things improve for the better in terms of public participation in policy making process in Makueni County. Additionally, financial, physical resource, human resource and technological barriers were identified as having considerable negative impact on citizen participation in policy making process. The study thus recommends that Makueni County management should embark on renewed promotional strategies to create awareness among citizens of their democratic right and opportunities for participation in policy making process in Makueni County. Further, the citizens themselves should be proactive and employ necessary mechanisms of obtaining information from the county government and demand participation. The Makueni County management should on the other hand, formulate a framework that stipulates the measures to be applied towards fully involving the citizens. The Makueni County management should also be more transparent and accountable in order to help build a positive perception about public participation amongst the residents. Moreover, the Makueni County management should engage in robust resource mobilization of finances, physical, human and technological resources that advance public participation in policy making process. On a policy level, the County Assembly should amend existing public participation legislation to make it more responsive to the needs of citizens. The executive should on their part robustly implement public participation processes going forward.