Kenyans demand transparency about public spending
Kenyan citizens are increasingly calling for access to clear and reliable information on public spending, including expenditure that is funded from international aid.
Our latest collection of case studies and videos from Kenya attempts to increase our understanding of the issues facing citizens and civil society organisations (CSOs) who wish to access information about public spending, and who operate in a country where just over 10% of government expenditure comes from aid.
It’s this knowledge that drives us forward towards the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan this week. A successful outcome for those who benefit from aid must include a specific, time-bound commitment to increase the transparency of aid information, and to publish that information in line with the common, open standard developed by the International Aid Transparency Initiative.
This is a crucial step towards supporting citizens to hold their governments accountable for the way they spend public funds, including aid resources. When governments are more accountable, public spending is more effective and citizens are able to monitor and direct services that can greatly improve their lives.
Angela Kageni is the Senior Programme Officer at Aidspan, a CSO based in Kenya. Aidspan work to, amongst other functions, track the flow of aid money from when it is dispersed to the point it reaches the ground.
Finding out how resources are being used at the country-level is a real challenge, but it is vital in making sure that what goes into the system is what comes out. It can be a bit difficult to track money right through the system. To be able to identify progress and analyse performance, and thus hold those using the money accountable, you need to know what money is coming in and how that money is being used.
Our new case studies illustrate these points only too well. By enabling ordinary people to use whatever means of communication are available to them – including mobile phones, local radio stations, places of worship and schools – CSOs in Kenya are witnessing a growing thirst for government accountability.
Given the opportunity to report hospitals with no medicines, pumps with no water or schools with no teachers, people are stepping forward to register their complaints. Organisations like the Social Development Network (SODNET) are then analysing complaints against budgets and passing the information on to policy-makers via the internet.
The National Taxpayers’ Association (NTA), Twaweza and Uwezo also encourage people to monitor local spending on services like water provision, schools, health and infrastructure and to record their findings. The organisations are then analysing this information against government spending data and sharing it with policy-makers.
By monitoring public spending, including the proportion funded by aid, the Kenyan people can ensure that they are benefiting from the services they are owed as citizens.
Journalists like Luke Anami of Kenya’s leading daily newspaper, The Standard, are getting involved and demanding more and better information. He says:
Often, even if information is available, it is not always accurate.
He calls on CSOs for information about public spending from the grass roots that is not available elsewhere.
Reliable data about public resource flows in Kenya is not only hard to get hold of but is also often presented in a complex and inaccessible manner. Delays in the release of information about public spending – which may often be incomplete – further undermine timely analysis.
Our new case studies highlight the demands of citizens and CSOs in developing countries for greater access to aid information. They illustrate what can be achieved when this need is met. And they challenge those who are meeting in Busan next week to take action on improving access to aid information.
As Kwame Owino, CEO of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:
The importance of accurate data can’t be overstated. We as civil society need to be able to contribute to the public debate about policy, while the public need it in order to hold the authorities to account and to participate in their own governance.
View our new Kenyan case studies and videos to find out more.