Figuring out devolution

Over lunch hour today, I went to ShiftEye Gallery to see what was showing. What I found was an interesting look at the legislature, lawmaking and county budgets set up by The Institute for Social Accountability (TISA).

The exhibition starts off with a look at the gender equation at the national and county levels. It’s a jarring realisation; to see in figures a truth one may have gleaned by looking at images of politicians in Kenya. It then moves on to some Bills that have been brought before the  House this term (you can view them over at Mzalendo), a look at the sense or lack thereof behind CDF, a history of terrorist attacks in the Republic and ends at County poverty rates and allocations for different sectors.

The exhibition is interesting for this reason: it tries to give a visual sense of what the last 3 or so years have looked like and what the time before that was in the context of CDF and constitutional and legal standards. If you’re not up to date with some of these matters, it’s an interesting primer on what the state of the nation is in certain regards. It also raised some thoughts in my head. Here we go.

It helps to know what Bills mean, to get some citizen’s translation about what’s in it for you if and when a Bill passes. This is one of the things that I found most interesting as I looked at the posters they’d put up: the attempt to translate lawmaking for those of us who haven’t thought of these things since we sat KCSE History Paper 2. There’s also information about how to get Bills which are unconstitutional worked on by reaching out to your MP, or the President. I wished there was evidence of how well this works because if you remember what I wrote about citizen participation, a lot is easier said than done. How, for example, does your average citizen gain access to the MP, how do they get them to listen?

The figures on Turkana’s expenditure were telling: so much money allocated to the Governor’s office and that of his deputy (6.6%) that compares unfavourably with the 5.8% allocated to Education, Culture & Social Services. The figures out of Nairobi are no less discomfiting and it says a lot of the priorities of the people in power. I wished that the displays had been more harmonised with these figures; each display had its own standard and this made it hard to truly put one’s finger on what’s what. There was also inconsistency in terms of copy quality (typos galore) and the data visualizations (some were amazingly clean, some were a bit of a mess).

All in all, I found that the resources that are presented in the exhibit are a good place to start some conversations about funds, resource allocation, and citizen participation. It also made me realise your average Kenyan doesn’t quite know where to go so I’ll end this with a few places to go. When I needed  something done in my constituency, the National Taxpayers Association (NTA)site and Kenya Open Data helped me know what resources were available. TISA issues reports that would be of help in informing your conversations with legislators and Mzalendo is a good place to find out what, if anything,  your representative is up to. Lastly, the Society for International Development’s Kenya Dialogues Project will bring you up to speed on matters that would interest an active citizen.

If you know any other places you can find information that helps a citizen navigate the resources and opportunities due to them, please put it in the comment section. Thank you!