KATHMANDU, May 15: The local representatives to be elected from the first phase of local elections held on Sunday and those to be elected from the second phase next month will for the first time exercise executive, legislative as well as judicial powers which have been devolved to the local level by the new constitution.
The local bodies, which were hitherto limited to maintaining records, issuing recommendation letters, carrying out small development activities and collecting land revenue, among other things, have now been granted an array of 22 exclusive powers by the constitution itself. Additional 15 powers will be shared among the center, the provinces and the local levels.
According to Schedule-8 of the new constitution, local bodies will have the power to generate revenue, plan and implement development projects on their own from the local resources and formulate laws for the exercise of the constitutional powers.
The government recently registered the Bill on Local Level Governance in the parliament which further explains the implementation process of the authorities given by the constitution.
The constitution has given the powers of deploying town police, running cooperatives, operate FM radio with up to 100 watts capacity, and collect local taxes among others. For the purpose, the local units can formulate the policy, law and criteria for the management of town police, operation of cooperatives, collection of local taxes, local level development projects among other things.
The bill has proposed that municipal or village assemblies should endorse their budgets including estimated annual income and expenditure from the rural or municipal assembly by mid-July every year. But the newly-elected mayors or chiefs of the local units, for the first time after election, should present its annual budget within two months of assuming office.
The local units can generate income by enforcing property tax, house rent tax, land and building registration fees, motor vehicle tax, service charges, tourism fees, advertisement tax, business tax, land revenue tax and grants from central government, provincial budgets, funds from donor agencies and other sources.
Further explaining the constitutional rights, the bill has proposed powers to the local level to formulate and execute law and policy for basic and secondary level education at the respective local units. Likewise, the local units can make their own laws and policies for health and sanitation, local market management, local roads and irrigation projects, farming, animal husbandry, management of elderly people and differently-abled, drinking water, micro hydro projects and alternative energy and disaster management, among other things.
The constitution has entrusted the local units with the powers to plan for local roads, rural roads, agro-roads and irrigation projects, which used to be decided from the central or district level before.
According to directives circulated by Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development, the municipalities and rural municipalities can prepare plans, implement and monitor their implementation, update and preserve data, run development works and regulate activities of development, construction, industry, market and quality assurance.
The directives have given the right to the ward units to issue recommendations for citizenship certificates, certify dates of birth and marriage and other relationships, and carry out semi-judicial activities.
"Civil servants at ward offices have already started executing the rights given through the ministry's directives," spokesperson at the ministry, Kedar Nath Sharma, told Republica.
The authority to distribute house and land ownership certificates, which is so far done by district administration, will be transferred to the local units. Similar, authorities related to protection of watersheds, wildlife, mines and minerals and protection and development of languages, cultures and fine arts at the community level will also be exercised by local units.
Article 217 of the new constitution has proposed semi-judicial powers for the local units for settling various disputes at the local level. For this purpose, a judicial committee will be formed under the coordination of the deputy mayor or deputy chief of the local unit. Local units can settle cases related to dams, canals and roads, disputes related to remuneration, sharing of family property, use of water resources, rent and other matters, according to the bill on local governance.
Powers to local units (Schedule -8 of the constitution)
· Town police
· Cooperative institutions
· Operation of FM
· Local taxes (wealth tax, house rent tax, land and building registration fee, motor vehicle tax), service charge, fee, tourism fee, advertisement tax, business tax, land tax (land revenue), penalty, entertainment tax, land revenue collection.
· Management of the local services
· Collection of local statistics and records
· Local level development plans and projects
· Basic and secondary education
· Basic health and sanitation
· Local market management, environment protection and biodiversity
· Local roads, rural roads, agro-roads, irrigation
· Management of village assembly, municipal assembly, district assembly, local courts, mediation and arbitration
· Local records management
· Distribution of house and land ownership certificates
· Agriculture and animal husbandry, agro-products management, animal health, cooperatives.
· Management of senior citizens, persons with disabilities and incapacitated
· Collection of statistics of the unemployed
· Management, operation and control of agricultural extension
· Water supply, small hydropower projects, alternative energy
· Disaster management
· Protection of watersheds, wildlife, mines and minerals
· Protection and development of languages, cultures and fine arts