Provincial administration in limbo as statute deadline inches closer

Published On: December 26, 2017 06:30 AM NPT By: Ashok Dahal  | @ashokpillar

KATHMANDU, Dec 26: Though just a month remains for the summoning of the first meetings of all seven provincial assemblies, the government is yet to fix the provincial capitals, set up the meeting halls for the provincial assemblies and appoint the provincial governors. 

Provincial assemblies are getting full shape next week, as the Election Commission (EC) has given this week's deadline to the political parties for providing names of their candidates to be elected under the proportional representation (PR) category. According to EC Spokesperson Nawaraj Dhakal, PR candidates in the provinces are likely to get elected next week, completing the election of the provincial assemblies. 

According to Article 183 of the constitution, the provincial governor has to summon the first session of the provincial assembly within twenty days of the declaration of the final results of the provincial assembly elections. 

According to Minister for Urban Development Dilnath Giri, the ministry has not started any work for setting up provincial assembly meeting halls, ministries and quarters for top office bearers of the provinces. “We are still in a fix over starting any preparations for arrangement of physical infrastructure for the provinces as the cabinet is yet to fix the provincial capitals. The government is preparing to fix the provincial capitals through a cabinet meeting by this week,” he told Republica. 

The government is likely to fix Pokhara, Surkhet and Janakpur as the capitals of Province 4, Province 6 and Province 2, respectively, according to Minister Giri. “We have identified Janakpur Cigarette Factory hall as the provincial assembly meeting venue if Janakpur is fixed as the provincial capital,” he added.  

Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM), Khagraj Baral said that the government has identified halls for the provincial assembly meetings in the 'likely' provincial capitals. “A high-powered Federal Administration Restructuring Committee has suggested 15 cities as the potential provincial capitals. We have identified the halls for the provincial assembly meetings and other offices for the provincial governments in all the cities suggested by the committee,” Baral told Repulica on Monday. A taskforce formed by the government has visited all 15 cities for identifying physical infrastructure for running provincial assembly and provincial government activities, he said. 

The committee has recommended Pokhara, Surket and Janakpur as the capitals for Provinces 4, 6 and 2 respectively. But the committee has also suggested multiple cities in option for rest of the other four provinces.  According to the report, Biratnagar, Itahari and Dhankuta have been recommended as choices for the provincial capital of Province 1, Banepa, Dhulikhel, Kathmandu Valley and Hetauda for the capital of Province 3, Tulsipur, Dang and Butwal for Province 5, and Dhangadhi and Dipayal for Province 7.

The Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development has finalized a draft for interim provincial governance until the provincial assemblies formulate new laws. According to Rudra Singh Tamang, spokesperson for the ministry, the draft is based on the rights of provinces listed in the annex of the constitution. 

The high-powered Federal Administration Restructuring Committee has suggested seven ministries at the provinces according to committee Chairman Kashi Raj Dahal. “We have recommended basic and optional ministries at the provinces. Finance, Home Affairs, Physical Infrastructure, Education and Health would be basic ministries at all provinces. Other ministries will be optional,” Dahal said. According to administrative expert Dahal, the provinces can decide the ministries based on their priorities. “For example, if a province has a high potential for tourism, then it can have a tourism ministry. Similarly, if another province has its strength in agriculture, it can have an agriculture ministry,” he added. 

The Federal parliament secretariat has submitted a report recommending the organizational structure, number of civil servants and estimated expenses of the provincial assemblies to the government. According to spokesperson for the parliament secretariat, Bharat Gautam, 47 permanent and 20 temporary civil servants have been recommended for each of the seven provinces. Each provincial assembly secretariat will he headed by a secretary, who will be promoted from the existing senior joint-secretaries. Three joint-secretaries, seven under-secretaries, 12 officers have been proposed at the province assembly. 

However, OPMCM Secretary Baral said that the government has planned to send 30 to 35 civil servants in the first phase. The federal parliament secretariat has planned to depute some of its staffers to the provinces for short terms to familiarize the provincial assembly staffers with parliamentary activities, said Gautam.

The government is yet to appoint governors for the provinces, though governors are responsible for summoning the provincial assembly meetings.

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