Research evidence is important in decision-making on tackling development challenges, especially in Parliament, which plays a critical role in oversight – of the Executive’s functions and – budget formulation in line with Article 221 of the Constitution.
The role of Parliament as provided in the Constitution in Article 94, 95 and 96 is also to legislate, oversight of national revenue and expenditure and representation.
Further, Article 221 gives Parliament the power to formulate the national budget, a role that was previously a preserve of the Executive. To this end, the Legislature plays a critical role in the wellbeing of the Kenyan people and, as such, their technical capacity to perform these roles ought to be enhanced.
On 27th August 2015, Members of Parliament comprising the Senate and the National Assembly launched the first ever Parliamentary Caucus on Evidence-Informed Oversight and Decision-making (PC-EIDM), an informal network, which enables Parliamentarians focus on evidence during debates and decision-making.
The quality of research evidence to inform policy-making has to be unobjectionable so as to influence decision-making for effective policies. It’s that need to present quality research evidence by committees that Parliament is now working with research institutions like the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) and development partners to support effective research use among policymakers.
This Caucus, therefore, provides a structured platform to enable Parliamentarians share experiences and work together to promote an evidence-informed culture in their work. To achieve its objective, the Caucus will utilise strategies including advocacy to strengthen the technical capacity of Parliamentarians and Parliamentary Committees in accessing and using evidence in their work, and legislation to encourage public investment in programmes that have been proved to be cost-effective. Members of Parliament and more so, Parliamentary Committees will be sensitised on the ways to engage the Executive in a bid to access the requisite evidence and data that is likely to inform their policy decisions.
While Parliament formulates laws, it’s the Executive that creates policies. These policies can be scrutinised by Parliament. Subject to understanding policy issues created by the Executive, the powers of parliamentarians are limited to how knowledgeable they are on policies. It’s the utilisation of research evidence that will make parliamentarians effective in influencing policies created by the Executive.
The role of the Parliamentary Caucus
The passage of the Public Finance Management Act 2012 compels both national and county governments to present their budgets in a programme-based format that is commensurate with research evidence.
With that, PC-EIDM seeks to complement the efforts of Parliamentary Committees in both the Senate and the National Assembly to use evidence to inform policy and budget decisions and further guide implementation of national and county programmes. Parliamentarians are therefore compelled to present facts and evidence at the centre of their decision-making processes if development challenges are to be addressed.
Also, considering that the policy-making process is political, the Caucus advocates for the elimination of “opinion-based policy-making’ which can be costly, wasteful and diminishes outcomes of policies, programmes and interventions.
There’s also increasing demand across the continent that Parliamentarians should now utilise research evidence. As noted by the Caucus co-convener, Senator Wilfred Machage, the African Parliamentarians Network on Development Evaluation (APNODE) wants Caucus members to advocate for development evaluation as a source of credible evidence in decision-making, in order to promote good governance, development and inclusive growth.
Dr Susan Musyoka, Women Rep (Machakos) who’s also a co-convener of the Caucus has noted the lack of adequate access to evidence due to weak linkages with public and research institutions. She notes that this has also been affected by the lack of institutional guidelines on how to use evidence and -political interests, which undermine uptake of research.
Dr Musyoka also notes that the Caucus will seek answers on how public funds are spent as well as shifting from line-budgeting to programme-based budgeting.
As noted by Dr Eliya Zulu, Executive Director, AFIDEP during the launch of the Parliamentary Caucus, Kenya’s growth and that of Africa will largely depend on the increased use of evidence in ensuring that critical development sectors receive requisite resources to address challenges and steer meaningful development.
Strategies for the Caucus
It’s important that decision-makers and research institutions get to understand the relevance of research use so as to introduce policies which are evidence-informed for the good of development.
The Caucus will organise – workshops and retreats for Parliamentary committee members who will be sensitised on use or research evidence. The Caucus will also lobby for budgetary allocation to Parliament and other sectors likely to influence the use of evidence as well as transform the way House committees engage with the implementing ministries.
Emmanuel Toili is a Communications Specialist, African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP)