Public participation in the formulation of public policy: the case of the Lesotho National Decentralisation Policy in Maseru district.
Khiba, Manukuebe Bernice.
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This study analyses public participation in the formulation of public policy. The concept public participation has gained great attention over the decades with development scholars emphasising that it is an inevitable need for democratic governance. Generally public participation can be taken to mean that the citizens directly or through the associations and organisations that represent them take part in the processes of decision making together with their government. It is attributed to building effective, efficient, responsive, transparent, and accountable governance. Public policy is defined as whatever pronouncement that government makes regarding a problem affecting the wider society. Public policy formulation refers to the process whereby different actors or role players come together to deliberate and exchange views on how a public problem can be addressed. These role players come from within and outside government. Actors from government have a legal mandate to formulate policy because of their legal duty to serve the public. Role players from outside government represent public interests; they bring diversity of expertise and experience to advise on possible alternative solutions to the prevailing problem. Theory of participatory democracy which supports the idea of public participation in governance issues, including policy formulation has been adopted for this study. The main emphasis of this theory is that the people should have a chance to decide on the issues that affect them. Policies affect the people hence they must participate in their formulation. Mechanisms and processes of public participation, advantages, challenges, and criticisms linked to public participation in the formulation of public policy were explored. Various legislation guiding public participation were outlined; from international agreements, African legislation, SADC legislation and domestic legislation from the country where the study took place. The study used a qualitative research approach gathering primary data using in depth interviews and focus group discussions. Data was analysed by identifying major themes; democracy and good governance, empowerment, ownership and support, policy relevance and responsiveness and the mechanisms for public participation. The findings of this study revealed that both the government officials and the public recognise the importance of public participation in policy formulation. However, there were shortcomings especially in the way that the public was engaged to participate. The mechanisms used to involve them did not offer them genuine chances to influence the policy decisions.