Each year in Kenya, all 210 members of Parliament get roughly US$1 million each to distribute to community projects as they see fit. Where does the money really go? Citizen groups in Kenya are fighting to find out.
Our friends at the International Budget Partnership (IBP) have produced a documentary which highlights the ways in which citizens can impact budget-making by overseeing the distribution of funds through social audits. The documentary follows a monitoring group in Kenya but we think the story includes lessons that apply beyond Mombasa.
From the International Budget Partnership’s Press Release:
The International Budget Partnership has released “It’s Our Money. Where’s It Gone?” -a new documentary film on the work its partner, MUHURI (Muslims for Human Rights), is doing to involve communities directly in monitoring the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) in Mombasa, Kenya. The CDF allocates approximately one million dollars annually to each member of parliament to spend on development projects in his or her constituency but provides for no meaningful independent oversight. This is the story of ordinary Kenyans stepping in to do something about it.
The documentary shows how MUHURI uses “Social Audits” (a process developed in India, principally by the MKSS) to involve communities in monitoring and holding their government accountable for managing the public’s money and meeting the needs of its people, especially the poor and most vulnerable.
This is not a Kenya-specific problem. This story is familiar to Washington D.C. residents, where city council members distribute public funds to nonprofits and community groups with similarly low levels of oversight. IBP’s documentary reinforces the need to distance legislators from unmonitored public social spending and the vital role citizens must play in this process.
You can read more about the Washington City Paper’s tracking of the District’s funds on a previous post to the Commons.
— Norah Mallaney