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The Role of Parliament in Public Debt Oversight in Kenya

Debt can be an important mechanism for governments to ensure a speedy response to crisis situations like the Covid-19 pandemic, to invest in infrastructure projects or to help reach the Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, the social cost of unsustainable debt can be devastating, particularly for women and members of marginalized groups. Parliaments can provide strong fiscal oversight of government budgeting, borrowing and spending through specific public debt legislation and mechanisms for legislative debt management and oversight, which ensure that decisions impacting citizens’ future are transparent and accountable.

In Kenya, the parliament’s role with respect to fiscal responsibility and debt management is enshrined in the constitution, making it all the more pressing for the legislature to play a central role in reinforcing public debt transparency and accountability. Against a backdrop of increasing public debt levels and strains on Kenyan fiscal stability, this report is intended to provide members of parliament and staff with background on the history of public debt in Kenya and the public debt legal framework, as well as practical suggestions for future improvements.

This report is part of a National Democratic Institute (NDI) program that highlights the critical role that parliaments have in public debt management and oversight and assists parliamentarians and parliamentary staff in accessing the required knowledge and tools to exercise their legislative and oversight role with regards to public debt management.