New structure, lack of laws put local representatives in a bind

Published On: July 9, 2017 08:06 AM NPT By: Ashok Dahal  | @ashokpillar

KATHMANDU, July 8: The newly-formed committees in local units have failed to start their work effectively due to the completely new structure delineated under the federal system and the lack of laws and proper instruction from the central level. The newly-elected representatives have got lost in formulating the local government's budget for the upcoming fiscal year also because of inexperienced civil servants.

The elected representatives assumed office nearly two months ago in provinces 3, 4 and 6 but the local units in the provinces have been functioning through a directive of Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD) in the absence of a local governance act. The local governance bill is waiting for approval from parliament for the nearly past three months. But the bill is gathering dust in the House as the government hasn"t given priority to the endorsement of the bill.

The bill has proposed that mayors or chiefs of local units should present annual budget of their respective local units within two months of their election. But due to the delay in the endorsement of the bill, local units are in a fix over budget execution after new fiscal year which starts from July 16.

“But it is too short a period for the local units to identify areas of resources and income or expenditure sources,” said an executive officer of a local unit in Baglung district requesting not to be named. The government has deployed the newly-recruited officers at various local units. Due to the lack of proper instruction and training, they are finding it difficult to work with the inexperienced representatives.

“We just have completed the political restructuring of the local units but administrative restructuring is yet to be done,” said joint secretary at the local development ministry, Madhusudhan Burlakoti.

The elected representatives and civil servants have been facing challenges to estimate annual budget with the government not taking a clear decision on various issues. For instance, the officials are not yet clearly instructed as to whether the local units should bear monthly allowance for the elected representatives. “The ministry has recently proposed that the local units should also pay salaries to agriculture and veterinary office staffs in their territories and run health programs,” said the executive officer.

Following instructions from the ministry of local development, local units have formed a committee under the leadership of deputy mayors or vice chairpersons to identify sources of income and expenditure of respective local units for the upcoming fiscal year. The ministry has instructed the deputy chiefs of the local units, executive officers and accountants to prepare the basic design of the annual budget. The ministry has given orientation to the chiefs and deputy chiefs of the local units in Dhulikhel, Pokhara and Surket about their duties, jurisdiction and functioning of the local units.

Most of the local units are under-staffed and in several areas a ward committee secretary works for two to three wards. “We have asked the ward committee secretaries to work for three days to each ward office as they are entrusted with overseeing two ward offices at the same time,” said Bhim Prasad Dhungana, mayor of Nilkantha Municipality.

He said the chiefs of most local units in his district are new and they don"t have experience and proper idea to lead the powerful local units with legislative, executive and judicial powers given for the first time to the local units.

“We were given orientation based on directives of the ministry, but the Supreme Court has recently scrapped some provisions of the directives. The constitution has provided 22 different powers to the local units but we can"t execute most of the powers in the absence of law,” said Dhungana. “Parliament is yet to endorse the bill.”

Burlakoti said that though the people have expected a lot from their local representatives, who are elected after a gap of 20 years, it takes time for the local units to be properly managed and perform to their best.

According to him, the newly-elected representatives seemed to be unaware of some basic things. They are found working as party leaders and not public officials. He said some local units invited political leaders as chief guests in the municipal assembly meetings due to the lack of knowledge. “The municipal assembly is the local parliament. They shouldn"t allow anyone except the member in such meeting. But they are still in the learning phase,” he said.

The government has also failed to deploy civil servants to the local units even two months after elections were held in 283 local units.

In some local units, representatives have complained against the bureaucracy for not accepting them as the heads of the local units, said a source at the ministry.

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