Govt drafts new local governance bill maintaining ward office as center of service delivery

Published On: December 13, 2016 12:40 AM NPT By: Nabin Khatiwada

KATHMANDU, Dec 13: The government has prepared a draft bill on the governance and management of local units by maintaining ward level as the unit of service delivery as well as allowing all of them the powers to draft their own laws in the matters related to local units.  

The government move comes at a time when some of the leaders of the ruling coalition and the agitating Madhes-based parties are arguing that the provisions of the new constitution should be amended to curtail the jurisdiction of the local units and bring them under the province. 

According to the draft bill, the ward level office of village council and municipalities will be the center for service delivery. The ward offices will enjoy all the rights of recommending and certifying vital government documents to the general public. Such rights are enjoyed by only the village development committees and municipalities so far.

As the constitution has maintained that there shall be a District Assembly to make coordination between the village bodies and municipalities within the district, the draft bill has also maintained that the District Assembly will be a liaison body.

The draft also has a provision of setting up Judicial Committee in the village bodies as well as municipalities and having jurisdiction of settling cases related to boundary disputes of land, alimony, uses of local water resources, dispute between house-owners and tenants as well as 11 others issues. Anyone dissatisfied by the cases settled by the proposed judicial committees could appeal at the district courts if they feel the decision to be unjust.

The draft has also allowed village councils and municipalities to formulate local laws, policies, regulation and budget.

The government has been discussing the draft with concerned organizations and authorities to finalize it before registering in the parliament.

The Madhes-based parties have been arguing that giving power to the local units is a ploy to weaken federalism. They are demanding that everything related to local units within a province should be looked after by the provincial government.

On the other hand, some leaders of the ruling coalition have been claiming that the local units should not handle all the rights given to the local government and the efficiency of service delivery could be a problem in the future.

Schedule 8 of the constitution includes 22 matters under the list of exclusive power of local level. The list includes power to take decisions on the matters of town police, cooperative institutions, operation of FM, local taxes, 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 bio-diversity. Likewise, the list includes 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, management of senior citizens, persons with disabilities and the incapacitated, collection of statistics of the unemployed, management, operation and control of agricultural extension, water supply, small hydropower projects and alternative energy, disaster management,  protection of watersheds, wildlife, mines and minerals as well as protection and development of languages, cultures and fine arts.

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