Consensus achieved on Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Bill
37% of the total provincial budget would be allocated to the LG bodies: Speaker KPK Assembly
PESHAWAR, Oct 30: Election at the Village and Neighbourhood Council level may be held on party basis. District Finance Commission should be constituted to decentralize the fiscal distribution of revenue. A formula-based fiscal transfer mechanism ought to be established for the division of Provincial Consolidated Fund between the province and the local governments with the inclusion of new variables of conflict and disaster vulnerability and inverse density. Provincial Finance Commission should be formulated on the basis of representational parity giving equal representation to the district government. Some technical gaps exist which need broader consultation and review of existing draft. These were some of the recommendations that emerged on the eve of a consultative workshop on Devolution of Power to Local Government against the backdrop of Article 140-A of the Constitution which stipulates the devolution of political, administrative and financial authorities and responsibilities from the provincial infrastructure to the elected representatives of the local government.
The workshop was organized by UNDP’s project “Strengthening Participatory Federalism and Decentralization” and Akhter Hameed Khan Resource Centre (AHKRC) brought together a strong mix of participants from the mainstream political parties (JUI-F, PML-N, PPP, JI, QWP, ANP, MQM), members of Working Group in local government and rural development sector, serving as well as retired public servants, academia, department heads of local government institutions, Civil Society Organizations, Non-Government Organizations (UNDP, Rise International, Sarhad Rural Support Program, Sungi, Women Commission), lawyers from the district bar association, former councilors and media personnel attended the workshop.
Addressing the inaugural session of the workshop, Mr. Inayatullah Khan, Minister for Local Government and Rural Development Department (LGRDD) KPK, said that the inclusion of the public sentiments to firm up a solid program will go a long way in fostering the true spirit of devolution of power. At the same time he said that the KPK government had been holding consultative workshops for the last five days. The issue of holding elections on party or non-party basis is expected to be resolved in the next 24 hours.
Speaker Provincial Assembly, Mr. Asad Qaiser, while addressing the concluding session, said that consensus had been achieved on the 95% content of the draft Local Government Bill 2013 in consultation with all political parties including opposition parties. In a practical demonstration of their commitment for the devolution of power, PTI government has allocated 37% of the budget for the first time in history for the proposed three tier structure of government, at the Village, Tehsil and District level. He commended the efforts of the Provincial Government in promoting an atmosphere of consultation by taking all the stakeholders on board and deliberated that the 18th amendment presented a historic opportunity to the people of the country to reclaim their share in the power structure.
Director AHKRC, Mr. Fayyaz Baqir, informed the audience that the workshop was convened to solicit opinion and feed-back from different segments of the society on the proposed legislation on the devolution process and its ramifications on the quality of service delivery in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and also to lay out recommendations from the grassroots.
The participants came up with numerous recommendations on the structural mechanics, procedural dynamics and strategic corollaries of the devolution process. Recommendations were given on revenue collection and expenditure, political linkages, uniformity of electoral system at all tiers, representation of minorities, fiscal transfers, disaster management, resource base, land use planning, health and education.
UNDP representative, Mr. Amjad Bhatti, emphasized the importance of devolution of fiscal and administrative authorities and responsibilities to the elected representatives and articulated that the proposed legislation should be strictly in coherence with the Constitution of Pakistan in letter as well as in spirit. Mr. Atta-ur-Rehman from Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam remarked that mechanisms need to be put in place to discourage tussle between the local government representatives and MPAs. He said that personalization and localization of power should also be checked through proper accountability and checks and balances. Mr. Saifullah, a former Naib Nazim, added that local dispute committees should be set up at the Village and Neighbourhood Council level to resolve conflicts at the grassroots. Former Nazim, Mr. Abdul Wahid Qadri noted that the authority of the Chief Minister to suspend/terminate the elected District Nazim was in contradiction to the democratic principles. A representative of Qaumi Watan Party, Mr. Shahidullah Babar appreciated the formation of District Development Advisory Committee (DDAC) and said that this would go a long way in promoting coordination among the elected local government representatives, bureaucracy and the members of provincial and national assemblies and in ensuring transparency.