Lack of legal clarity hinders local bodies’ performance

Published On: February 5, 2019 10:01 AM NPT By: Bhim Chapagain

ILAM, Feb 5: People have huge expectations from the local government regarding development and even for finding solutions to a wide range of legal issues. However, the delay in drawing the line between the authority of the local, provincial and the central government has left the local representatives with no choice but to disappoint people. In absence of clearly defined roles and responsibilities of local bodies, their operational abilities have been affected. 

According to Shamsher Rai, Chairperson of Rong Rural Municipality, the delay in formulating law regarding health, education or cooperative businesses has tied the hands of the local government. Even though these bodies have been demanding for it, no real progress has been achieved so far. 

“We had promised a lot to the people during the election campaign. They have huge expectations for us. But even after a year since being elected to the office, we are yet to deliver our promises,” he lamented. “Though the nation has adopted federalism, it is yet to prepare laws that could define the role and responsibilities of all the state organs, including local government, in the new federal setup.”

Rows between the local, provincial and federal government over the management of local natural resources such as rivers, mountains, forests continue to draw headlines. This, Rai claimed was also due to the lack of laws that define the rights of the local government. 

“Prior to federalism, central government policies provided guidance to the local government offices. Nowadays, it is not the case. Federalism has provided greater powers, however, these bodies are yet to know their rights, roles, and responsibilities and this has seriously affected their functional abilities.  For instance, there is a lack of clear definition of the role of the ward office, municipality office or the office of the CDO. Such lackings have been the cause of conflict of interests between these bodies. They don’t know what is their job and what is other’s job,” he elaborated.

Local representatives urge the federal government to take the matter seriously and clearly define roles of all government bodies at the local, provincial and its own. They have stressed the need to clear the confusions surrounding this issue. 

 “We could do a lot in one year. But due to the lack of the well-defined role or rights of local bodies, we have been unable to plan and execute important development projects. Even if the local bodies take initiative for implementing a project, it gets stuck due to the possible conflict of interest with other government bodies and lack of knowledge about your own authority on the case,” Rai said. 

The local levels have the authority to formulate laws on their own. However, presently it is not clear how any conflicts with the laws formulated by the provincial or the federal level government will be resolved. As such, the local bodies are yet to make serious efforts in this direction and are waiting for clarity on the issue, Rai said. 

“We are presently executing our duties on the basis of existing guidelines. However, since the existing guidelines are too broad and lack most of the specifics, we are not able to take decisions with confidence. We are waiting for a clear picture to come from the provincial and federal government on the roles, rights, and responsibilities of all the local bodies,” Rai said.

As per the constitution, the local bodies have the ability to formulate law related to 22 sectors, the provincial government has the rights to make laws for 21 sectors and the federal can make laws for 35 sectors. The constitution has listed 15 sectors where the three levels have common rights.

“But the rights have not been well defined. And the lack of clarity has not only affected us also has equally affected the provincial and the federal government,” Rai said.

There are no clear laws to address issues related to sports, agriculture, irrigation, health, education, wildlife and forests, media and so on. According to Rai, the local level is struggling to address the problems related to squatters, social security, disaster management and so on. “We cannot make laws on our own. We are waiting for the center to expedite this,” he said.

Ilam municipality has formulated over 33 laws and over 30 laws have already been endorsed. Other municipalities and rural municipalities have also formulated a certain number of laws and endorsed them. 

According to Rana Bahadur Rai, Mayor of Suryodaya Municipality, the frame given by the constitution helps to come up with laws and policies but for absolute clarity, the common rights should be well defined. “We are waiting for that clarity,” he said.

Due to confusions over which body is authentic to look after which sector, some are taking undue advantage and exploiting forests, rivers, and other natural resources. Dipak Thebe, mayor of Mai Municipality stated that his municipality has large swathes of government-owned lands and managing it has been one of the biggest challenges for it in lack of related law. “The central government is yet to prepare laws for management of such lands. As such we have been facing difficulty in managing the land.”


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