By ALLOYS MUSYOKA
In a bid to enhance transparency, accountability and citizen participation which are essential elements of good governance in many countries InformAction Kenya organization has launched a project dubbed shifting the power to people in Kwale.
Access to information is a fundamental right that empowers citizens to hold public officials accountable and actively participate in democratic processes.
The three years project funded by Bread for the Word (BFTW) a German church-based organization and InformAction Kenya is aimed at promoting access to information for better accountability and governance in Kenya.
Locals will be enabled to actively engage in governance, demand accountability from public officials, and contribute to transparent decision-making processes.
The project is aimed at seeing a strengthened commitment of citizens to act as key advocates for transparent and constitutional governance in eight counties.
Citizens across the eight counties will see them being engaged in awareness campaigns to educate them about their right to access information and how to exercise it effectively.
Also training sessions to enhance capacities of citizens on what the constitution of Kenya says about access to information, improving on citizens’ digital literacy skills to check and review and participate fully in county level budget processes, and further eempower ordinary citizens to advocate for access information and improve governance at the county level will be conducted.
According to InformAction Kenya official Uba Suleiman the project advocates for improved access to government information and the proactive disclosure of relevant data by government agencies.
“We also want to establish mechanisms for citizens to report barriers to accessing information, and compile and analyze such reports to identify areas for improvement. Secondly the project will be collaborating with ordinary citizens to develop a scorecard for their local counties on governance and accountability,” she said.
Speaking during the project launch at Mvideni-Red cross in Kwale, Uba said that they are focused on collaborating with like-minded organizations, community action teams’ government agencies, and international partners to leverage resources and expertise on increasing advocacy on access to information and social accountability.
“We want to see how better we can develop and disseminate innovative, user-friendly information tools and resources to assist citizens in accessing and understanding government data and information,” she added.
Inform Action uses a model described as Watch-Discuss-Act that allows for use of films to catalyse discussions and further find solutions within the guard rails of the constitution of Kenya 2010.
This increases the level of advocacy at the grassroots level.
The project target a broad range of beneficiaries, including ordinary citizens, community groups, civil society organizations, Journalists and media outlets, Local and international partners, Marginalized communities with limited access to information, National government administrative officers and Presidential representatives at the location, and Passing information to the communities on government agenda.
The project aims at increased awareness among citizens about their right to access information, improved digital literacy skills among target populations and Greater transparency and proactive disclosure of government information.
Also enhanced legal and policy frameworks supporting access to information, a more informed and engaged citizenry contributing to better governance.
Gaps within Civil society groups in the area were raised for failing to sensitize locals on the issue of budget making process according to Muslim for Human Rights Abdurahman Mwangoka.
Muslim Women Advancement of human rights and protection official Mwalimu Ali said that there is a room to focus on improving the issue of public participation on budget instead of keeping complaining.
“Instead of apportioning blame to this and that let us focus on how best we can engage the community and empower them to participate in the budget making process and how best they can request information from their governments,” he said.
Coast Times Digital CEO Alloys Musyoka said that for a better budget process in counties a village development platform should be formed to ensure locals participation in the budget making process.
“We need to have the community sensitized so that they can take it up on themselves in ensuring at every village unit there is a development forum that will have representatives to propose projects for implementation,” he suggested.
He said that the media fraternity is ready to work with organizations in order to ensure communities are sensitized and empowered through information sharing through media coverage.