A coalition of leaders from civil society and the private and public sectors established the National Taxpayers Association (NTA) in April 2006. Its inception was informed by the Centre for Governance and Development’s work under its Economic Governance Programme. CGD’s assessment of the Controller and Auditor General’s Reports from 1993 to 2003 and most recent reviews revealed a worrying trend in waste and mismanagement of public resources through state-owned enterprises. The resultant publications — “Seven Years of Waste” and “A Decade of Waste” — revealed massive losses conservatively estimated at Ksh256 billion over a period of 10 years. These colossal losses ultimately translated into poor service delivery for taxpayers, poor implementation of public projects, and a culture of impunity, among other corruption-related problems and inadequacy in effective revenue collection mechanism.
The idea of the NTA thus emerged out of interest among citizens for greater government accountability regarding the use and collection of their taxes. The NTA was mooted based on consultations by and input from various institutions from October 2005 and subsequent stakeholder forums from April 2006 to July 2007 held in Nairobi (2), Nyeri, Kisumu, Eldoret, Machakos, Busia, Garissa and Mombasa involving more than 350 stakeholders representing more than 200 organisations from across the country. These stakeholders included the Government of Kenya (GoK), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), faith-based organisations (FBOs), community-based organisations (CBOs), development partners, private and informal sector associations and trade unions, among others.
In April 2006, this broad cross-section of Kenyan civil society and private sector organisations agreed to establish the National Taxpayers Association (NTA) to improve the collection and use of taxes across the country2. The impetus for this initiative was growing frustration among citizens and civil society organisations regarding the use of taxpayer’s money in socio-economic development focused devolved funds, such as the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), Kazi Kwa Vijana, Uwezo Fund, and the Local Authority Transfer Fund (LATF), among others, and the poor service delivery by mainstream central government ministries, departments and agencies.
It was based on the need for citizen-responsive government as a critical facet of good governance. The project was premised on the fact that all citizens pay taxes and should, therefore, demand that their taxes be used to bring about effective, quality public service delivery. All citizens have a stake in the national revenue and should be enabled to demand value for their money and fulfilment of their basic human rights.
The NTA project developed the Citizens Report Cards (CRCs) as social accountability tools to enable citizen engagement in relation to the management of devolved funds and government service delivery. The CRC is able to empower citizens to demand their rights and accountability from an evidenced-based platform.
The NTA borrowed from the success of the CRC in other parts of the world, particularly in India where the CRC has been used as an effective mechanism through which citizens can hold their local service providers to account for the delivery of quality services. The tool was developed by the Public Affairs Centre (PAC) in Bangalore City, Southern India. Over a 10-year period, the PAC produced and widely disseminated a Citizen’s Report Card, which assessed the quality of city services. The CRC was an effective tool to put pressure on government service providers to improve the delivery of local services.
Based on this success, the NTA adopted the report card model to enable citizens to formally demand accountability for quality service delivery from their local service providers and managers of devolved funds. Since its conception, NTA’s success and operations have evolved exponentially. It is now established as a new organisation with its own identity. NTA has eight regional offices and a secretariat in Nairobi. NTA continues to enjoy an effective working relationship with its founding members. NTA is making an impressive impact on good governance by establishing influential channels for citizen demands for accountability, strengthening government service delivery and increasing the democratic interactions between national and county governments and the citizen of Kenya.