Located in Kenya’s North Rift region, Nandi County is primarily known as the cradle of champions, a bragging right it has gained as the birthplace and home to some of Kenya’s world-famous Olympic athletes. But beside this claim to fame, Nandi County is now making a name for itself by keeping its promises on open governance and becoming more accountable and responsive to the needs of its citizens.
Since joining the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2020, the subnational government has initiated a process of participatory governance that includes citizens and local civil society organizations in its governance agenda.
A new partnership
This move was further strengthened on February 28, 2022, when a partnership was forged between the County Government of Nandi, Hivos, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Mzalendo, the National Tax Payers Association, and the Open Government Institute to support the county’s local OGP action plans.
The partnership will strengthen citizen engagement with capacity building that expands online and offline feedback mechanisms for inclusion and public participation in public procurement. Specifically, Hivos will provide technical support to establish an open contracting portal. This will allow public contracting data and information to be published in a format that is accessible, machine readable, and easy to use for citizens and the media. This in turn should encourage proactive spending disclosures on public services, goods, and works within the County .
Hivos’ local ownership and multi-stakeholder ambition in public finance
Speaking at the launch of the partnership, Hivos East Africa’s Regional Director, Mendi Njonjo, was quick to affirm Hivos’ commitment to working with progressive governments to build democratic spaces that encourage public participation. “The unique thing about this partnership is its potential to boost what we call local ownership through a multi-actor initiative that will support proactive disclosure of procurement information by the County Government and provide feedback mechanisms that concerned citizens and journalists can use to engage with the Government,” she said.
Nandi County’s Deputy Governor, Her Excellency Dr. Yulita Mitei, reiterated the County’s desire to be accountable to its citizens by ensuring quality provision of goods and services with the open contracting approach. “We acknowledge that previous administrations have been slow to enable public participation and open governance, but we are now very excited by the potential this partnership has in realizing our commitments as a member of the Open Government Partnership,” she said.
Nandi becomes Kenya’s third county (after Makueni and Elgeyo Marakwet counties) to officially adopt the open contracting approach and show its commitment to increasing transparency in public finance in order to enhance efficiency and improve the quality of participation by its citizens.
Against the backdrop of Kenya’s flawed history in public procurement, the move toward open contracting by Makueni, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nandi counties is a welcome milestone. It means that implementing data-driven reforms in public procurement can facilitate public participation and catalyse demands for accountability in Kenya.
Hivos’ track record in championing open contracting
In 2018, Hivos East Africa signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Makueni County to adopt the open contracting approach. So far the portal has enabled the county to save more than KES 30 million (USD 264,000) as a result of enhanced integrity in public procurement through the open contracting approach.
To complement these efforts, in 2019 a new media innovation partnership with Hivos, Nation Media Group, and the IEA launched “UNMASKED.” It was the very first open contracting portal in sub-Saharan Africa to enable evidence-based storytelling in public procurement. This innovative portal publishes informed and objective public procurement stories, setting a new standard for other media houses in the region. Here are some examples:
- Traders who made millions from Covid supplies
- Covid-19: Kenya paid double for protective kits
- At long last, faces of Covid-19 millionaires start emerging
Openness for Covid Response and Recovery in Kenya (O4C19)
Hivos’ EU-funded O4C19 program aims to improve transparency and efficiency in the use of public resources and in public access to services during and after the Covid-19 crisis in Kenya.