Evidence from the Vihiga Municipal Council indicated substantial abuse of local funds in Kenya. This led to civil society successfully intervening by increasing the accountability and management of public funds through citizen monitoring. The Centre for Law and Research International (CLARION) – in cooperation with a local NGO, Community Engagement for Peace and Development (CEPED), and with financial support from the Partnership for Transparency Fund have had a demonstrable impact, curbing corruption by 20% and increasing the execution rate of projects by 15%.
In Kenya, some local infrastructure projects are funded through so called devolved funds. The Ministry of Local Government provides such funds for specific projects to the municipalities, which are then responsible for the project execution, including procurement, contracting, budgeting, oversight and closing.
The organizations set up a partnership with local communities and the municipality council. Between October 2011 and September 2012 they trained 30 community members on auditing and advocacy, creating a pool of social auditors. These auditors conducted monitoring and evaluation of seven selected projects: four construction sites (a dispensary, a municipal council hall, a market and a school), a road repair, street lighting and one car purchase.
The results were damming: the money had already been spent but projects were not completed. Additionally the auditors found poor or no accounting, unclear or no procurement, and bad quality of materials and contracted work. In one area, car purchasing, there was insufficient evidence on how the decision was made and how much the car cost.
The results of the audit were presented and discussed at public accountability forums leading to Action Plans and the appointment of Action Committees. The Committees then met the County Council.
Following these meetings, a dispensary and a Municipal Council Hall were built. Some parts of both buildings are now equipped and functional. The market street lights were repaired and extended. The road repair project was taken over by the Kenya Urban Roads Authority and new tenders were announced. The market was fenced. Ksh 500,000 missing from the car purchase scheme was disclosed, though remains unrecovered.
CLARION estimates a 15% increase in the number of projects completed. The organization also estimated a 20% decrease in new corruption incidents at the Council. The appraisal of projects and the follow-up public accountability activities (forums, meetings) not only exposed corruption cases but should serve as a corruption prevention mechanism as well. This should lead to better management of public funds and better service delivery for citizens.
- If community social auditors are trained well in social auditing and advocacy, they can play a key role in ensuring the implementation of community development projects.
- If community mobilization is backed by concrete action plans, it can bring sustainable results.
- The implementation of the project benefitted from a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Clarion, CEPED and the Municipality Council of Vihiga. Through this Memorandum, the Municipality agreed to create an environment conducive for the social audits and for the sharing of information with CEPED to carry out the audits.