Kilifi county on September 4th called for a public consultative meeting to get endorsement of the public on the draft finance bill. The meeting started at 10.30am and the attendance was impressive with close to 300 people comprising of mainly BMOs and farmer organisations from Mtwapa, Majengo and Kikambala. Self representation from locally practicing doctors, religious leaders and also well-informed youth attended. Interestingly no political representative attended. Kilifi County Government was represented by Ms. Martha from the Kilifi Revenue Collection office and her counterparts from Mtwapa office. She briefly explained the role of the Finance Bill in project funding and the importance of public consultations. The County Government of Kilifi had earlier on sought public views on the prioritization of development projects and those views were recorded in the County Development Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) available on the County website. By referring to this document, the county government had taken up specific development projects in the past financial year but the Constitution required them to consult with the public every year prior to allocating funds for different projects.
The County had delayed in submitting their budget proposal to Central Government but were allowed an extra 90 days which expires today on 30th of September. They therefore required public endorsement so as to submit the budget within the period.
Public Response/ Request
Different members of public made the following requests/observations;
1. Why wasn't the draft Finance Bill circulated/ posted on website/ distributed to the public 14 days prior to consultations as per the constitution of Kenya?
2. Why was the invite to the public forum published on the Saturday Nation (30th August 2014) and announced through the public system to limited areas only hours prior to the forum?
3. Seeing as the Bill consisted of 42 printed pages, how was the public supposed to review such a document and ratify within 8 hours?
4. Where were the previous years accounts on revenue collected for accountability and transparency?
5. What services had the county government offered to the community to warrant introduction of such fees as bus park/stadium/toilet fees which do not exist in Mtwapa?
6. How come the draft Finance Bill lacked a comparative column showing current fees charged against proposed fees as is the norm?
Having noted the above the county representatives were asked to step out of the hall for a short while to allow the public to consult and agree on the way forward.
During the Community meeting, it emerged that;
1. The Chief Revenue Officer of Kilifi had met 35 ward representatives two days earlier hoping to get a buy in from them for the draft Bill to sail through the public forums.
2. The 35 ward representatives however requested the harmonization of the current charges and the proposed ones be done based on the average charges of all wards in the county as a condition for endorsing the draft.
3. The Mtwapa business community had presented a three page memorandum to H. E. the governor of Kilifi on how to improve service delivery and the governor requested for 14 days to respond the the memorandum. How then would he expect the public to read and ratify a 42 page document in eight hours.
4. There are no social amenities in some towns in Kilifi County yet the county government has been charging fees on the same.
5. Prior to ratifying the circulated draft, the county government should have provided accounts for collections made in the last financial year so as to ensure transparency since there is no need for 80 per cent seepage of revenue due to corrupt officers which is an additional cost to the business community.
6. A strategic plan on revenue collection utilization is yet to be presented to the community for scrutiny. Why should they pay more to a bottomless pit, so to speak.
The county representatives were called into the Hall and informed as follows;
1. The community shall not accept any presentation or discussion from the county representatives regarding the draft Bill since they had not read it.
2. The community through their leaders shall present a memorandum to the Governor through his representatives at the same Makio Hall on Wednesday 10th September 2014 at 9 am.
3. Before Wednesday, the correct (with a comparison column) draft bill should be posted online and distributed to the Kilifi South community for review, otherwise a memo shall be written to the Treasury citing a lack of consultations hence non-endorsement of the draft Bill.
4. A final warning was given to the county government of Kilifi with regards to mediocre presentation to the people of Kilifi South. Acceptable timelines should be observed when consultations are done otherwise stern action shall be taken by them.
Though heated, the power of an informed representation from the community was felt and the county representatives apologized to them.
It was agreed that the meeting shall take place on Wednesday, 10th September 2014. The Salt Sub-sector requested 14 days to present their memorandum to the county government which was approved.
There being no further consultations the forum ended.