2017 marks 7 years since 67% of Kenyans approved their new constitution. With its promulgation, came the decentralization of fiscal government functions; with improving efficiency in public service delivery at the local level, at the heart of this new system of government. Devolution has provided Kenya with an opportunity to accelerate development. Despite the hurdles encountered, there are tangible gains. In Taita Taveta County, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Kenya, citizens can now register their concerns at any of the four Citizen Complaints, Compliments and Information Centres in the county.
“Citizens were happy to hear that there is an office that was going to address their problems. They brought us cases which had stagnated in the national government’s District Commissioner’s Office. People who also felt that they had been treated unfairly by the courts brought these complaints to our office and we endeavored to find the best way to assist our citizens even if it meant reopening a court case,’’ explains Mr. Dennis Ngereri, the Officer in Charge at the Centre.
According to records at the Centre, most of the complaints received are land related. Working together with the National Lands Commission the Office has helped warring parties solve allotment issues. A citizen, Mr. Kombo mwanake Kana, attests. “We were able to solve a land wrangle spanning about thirty years in just one year through the Citizen Complaints, Compliments and Information Centre. In the past, every time a new municipality council was formed, our community was moved from where we had settled because somebody would show up with a title deed claiming the land we had occupied. The constant moving not only affected our livelihoods but our children’s education as well; as soon as they had settled in to one school, we would be moved to a different location.”
However, after registering this problem with the centre, the Community is now building permanent houses and have even received funds from the county government to build a school for their children. “The cooperation from the Centre was very swift & efficient. If it was not for the Centre, we would still be settlers; our children would not have a place to go to school. There is good work going on in that Office, we are witnesses,” says Mwanake Kombo.
In addition to listening to complaints, the Office also ensures that information is disseminated to citizens in a timely manner by attending ward barazas with ward administrators where they share with citizens services available at the office. “This has resulted in a lot of traffic from wananchi seeking further information and clarification. For example, people were not aware that we offer bursaries and loans for colleges and universities, and that we also have a fund called DATU for women and people living with disabilities,” points out Mr. Ngereri.
The Office which has been operational from 2015 has so far attended to about 500 complaints. The operations at the Centre are guided by a service charter that outlines what services it provides, sets service standards and posts fees for these services where they apply. Through analyzing the trends of the complaints received, The Office has also helped the county government to know the needs of citizens, and formulate ways to fill these gaps.
The Taita Taveta County Citizen Complaints, Compliments and Information Centre is emerging as a key citizen-centered mechanism for addressing citizen’s concerns and its demand by other counties for replication, provides an opportunity to change the citizens’ complaints handling landscape in Kenya. Already, Kiambu and Mombasa counties have undertaken learning trips to Taita Taveta while Kilifi, Lamu and Tana River have requested for information about the centers and are planning to also make learning visits respectively. In response to the success of the Centres in Taita Taveta, the County is working to establish citizen service centers, modeled like Huduma Centres, where citizens can access many services in a one-stop-shop.
UNDP Kenya support to the Citizen Complaints, Compliments and Information Centres is funded by UK Aid, USAID, Sweden and Norway.