Parliament, Participation and Policy Making

In 2010, with the enactment of the new Constitution, Kenya adopted a presidential system of government which strengthened the role of the legislature in the legislative process and reduced the influence of the executive. Legislative authority comprises of the national parliament (the National Assembly and the Senate) and County Assemblies for the county level of government. Public participation is a core pillar and principle of governance under the Kenya Constitution. Public participation is defined by the National Assembly as, “the process of interaction between an organisation and the public with the aim of making an acceptable and better decision”(The Clerk of the National Assembly, 2017). Public participation in the governance process is guided by various provisions of the Constitution and numerous statutes including the Public Finance and Management Act1, The County governments Act2, The Access to Information Act3 and the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Act4. The Parliamentary standing orders set out the procedures for lodging a petition by a member of the public.
Lessons emerging from the revision of Kenya’s Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (2013) through the use of public participation. The Act was reviewed with a parliamentary body, the Departmental Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (DCENR), playing a direct role in facilitating the public engagement. The Committee was supported by the Parliamentary Research Services (PRS), that played a critical role as a knowledge broker. After multiple attempts over the course of 16 years, the Act was successfully reviewed and with a strong sense of ownership across a diverse and somewhat fragmented group of stakeholders. However, the shortcomings and challenges in the process are recognised and give rise to a number of lessons for the country in going forward. These include: • The value and opportunities offered by the direct engagement of Parliament in facilitating public participation • The significance of the role of the PRS as a knowledge broker • The importance of good leadership; and • Ensuring that the necessary resources, including time, budget and skills is critical to successful public engagement