Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) hosted the “Public Finance and Governance in Kenya” webinar on Thursday, May 27, 2021.
The webinar aimed at empowering the public on what public finance involves and to encourage them to become active citizens especially in matters national budget.
Dr. David Wachira, a public sector specialist at the World Bank Group, and Co-founder and Managing Director of Waya Pay shared his vast knowledge on the topic.
“Public finance has several components which include tax collection, budget, expenditures, deficit and national debt. It is our duty and right as Kenyan citizens to participate in the country’s crucial activities such as the budget formulation process, since it affects us directly. However, we cannot do this without proper information,” said Dr Wachira.
Shedding light on what role an ordinary mwananchi has to play in issues related to government spending, Dr.Wachira noted that the Public Finance Management Act (PFM), along with the Constitution, state clearly these duties.
“According to the Kenya Constitution, there shall be openness and accountability, including public participation in financial matters and every citizen has the right to state information. That is why government must release information to the public in good time for people to deliberate,” averred Dr Wachira.
The public can comment on the overall direction the budget should take and should have opportunities to engage with the Parliamentary Budget Office, which is a research office that advises parliament on budget issues, according to the World Bank expert.
Given the fact that it can be hard for any individual to influence the budget process alone because there are so many different voices asking for different things, Dr.Wachira stated that this does not mean it is impossible. He noted that it can be useful to work with the media, that voices out public concerns,organizations and others individuals that share similar concerns.
In her submission during the webinar, Deputy Vice Chancellor, in charge of Research, Production and Extension, Prof. Mary Abukutsa, observed that public finance is a hot topic both in learning institutions and the government sector.
She encouraged the public and leaders to fully participate in this sector and play their part in ensuring there is good financial management.
“This is the beginning of a long journey which is important to all of us. It is our duty as a learning institution to make a difference. Such conversations will allow us to make huge steps in areas such as commercialization of innovations which will not only improve the financial position of the university but also that of the researchers,” Prof. Abukutsa stated.
Public finance knowledge is key to the eliminating conflict over the ways in which public resources including land, services and money are shared between people in Kenya and is central to the country’s history and citizens’ demand for change.