According to article 196 of the Constitution of Kenya, the County Assembly must conduct its business in an open manner, and hold its sittings and those of its committees, in public; and facilitate public participation and involvement in the legislative and other business of the assembly and its committees.
The same article dictates that the County Assembly may not exclude the public, or any media, from any sitting unless in exceptional circumstances the speaker has determined that there are justifiable reasons for doing so.
The County Assembly of Embu therefore endeavours to ensure that the House is open to the public whenever it is conducting its business. This website therefore seeks to link the Assembly to the blogosphere and provide information to internet users across the globe.
The Assembly also goes an extra mile to ensure that before any Bill is passed, there is public participation to sensitise members on its contents and collect their views with the aim of incorporating them in the Bill. This has been bolstered by the enactment of the Embu County Public Participation Act, 2015 and the Embu County Access to Information Act 2015.
These laws have defined the way the county engages members of the general public and outlines how they access information.
Public participation is an important principle, which has now been underpinned in the new Constitution and recognised as an important right. Various provisions provide for it as follows:
Article 35 of the Constitution: The right to information is a fundamental right necessary for the enjoyment of all other rights. When fully actualized, it will enable Kenyans to know about their development rights and projects from which they are supposed to be benefiting like, Equalisation Fund, County allocations, CDF, Uwezoet al. The Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill 2007, when enacted into law, will bring about openness, transparency and accountability.
Article 196 (1) (b) requires that the county assembly facilitates public participation in the legislative and other business of the assembly. This entails the local leaders in the county being fully in touch with the electorate and to hear what they want to have addressed. The county representatives will accordingly present the same to the assembly on behalf of the local people of his area of jurisdiction. Where the representative fails to do this as required by the law, the people can seek to have him ousted of office.
Article 10(2) (a) includes participation of the people as part of the national values and principles of governance. This has the effect that citizens have the right to have their opinion heard on matters of national importance.
Section 201(a) also outlines public participation as one of the principles of public finance alongside openness and accountability. This has to be reflected at both levels of government; national and county governments.
Public participation creates a balance between governing for the people, and governing by the people. The concept emphasizes on the need to enhance further inclusion and meaningful participation of citizenry in the process of decision making within governance structures. Harnessed properly, public participation has the potential of playing a significant role and greatly influencing decision making and ultimately improves the governance process. The makers of our constitution considered that public participation emphasizes on concepts like ‘more heads are better than one’ leading to productive and sustainable change. Indeed, it is part of a ‘people first’ or ‘people centered’ methods of management, which avoids centralized, hierarchical decision-making.