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Jason Lakin is a writer, researcher, and teacher. He has been the head of research for the International Budget Partnership (IBP) since 2017. His current work focuses on fiscal transparency and public participation in budgeting, program budgeting (with the World Health Organization), budget credibility, and the role of the legislature in the budget process. Prior to taking on the role of head of research, Lakin led IBP’s Kenya office for six years, where he was responsible for research, advocacy and capacity building efforts around public finance at national and county level. His research work in Kenya focused on revenue sharing, decentralization, and budget transparency. He continues to co-teach a public policy course at Strathmore University in Kenya, using co-authored teaching cases on revenue and water policy in the context of decentralization. He joined the IBP in 2009 immediately after completing his PhD in Government and Social Policy and a post-doctoral fellowship in Global Health at Harvard University, where he conducted research on Mexico's 2004 health insurance reform. He is the co-author, with the late Dr. Seymour Martin Lipset, of The Democratic Century (2004).
From March 2013, Kenya began devolving a number of functions and about 20% of national revenues to counties. This is part of a larger agenda of ambitious state reforms that was kicked off by the approval of Kenya's 2010 constitution. The theory of devolution suggests that such reforms bring policy/financial decision-making closer to the people on the ground, and lead to more efficient and effective allocations of public resources.
In the last two years, International Budget Partnership Kenya has been conducting analysis of public finance issues related to devolution in an attempt to make budget decision-making in particular more transparent and to encourage greater public engagement with them. This presentation looked at how the reform process has unfolded, and how institutional and informational constraints have undermined the potential for improved decision-making around revenue sharing, allocation and expenditure. In spite of these constraints, we discussed some notable achievements as well.