Administrative mess at local govt level in KP
The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem, says Milton Friedman, an American economist.
Exercising its constitutional authority in May last year, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly amended the local government system that was introduced in Aug 2001 with much fanfare as a recipe to improve governance.
The need for improvements in the system was there. The previous system complicated governance, weakened the administrative authority at the district and lower levels, created a bureaucratic vacuum, and battered the service delivery system at the grassroots. These problems and several others provided a solid reason to the political leaders at the helm of affairs these days to go for amending the local government system.
Among some of the important changes made by the legislature include the abolition of the district governments, revival of the erstwhile office of the deputy commissioner in all districts, and restoration of the old rural-urban classification of local councils across the province.
No qualms about the elected representatives’ political wisdom and sincerity in introducing the amendments.
Similarly, leaving aside the stories of some influential figures making quick bucks by taking advantage of the confusion and chaos that ensued after the implementation of the changes on Jan 1 this year, the situation at hands reflects the problems have gone from bad to worse.
It seems the movers and shakers sitting in the provincial assembly acted without diligence. They went for the changes without evaluating the effectiveness of their remedial measures. The government could have benefited by carrying out a cost benefit analysis to determine the economic viability of the changes, but no one bothered.
Some might say that the amendments were made after the provincial assembly’s committee concerned discussed and vetted them in fulfillment of the constitutional provisions.
Well, the assembly might have fulfilled the established criteria, but in today’s world, the direct involvement of general public in matters of public policy making is considered more effective and vital. It makes the public policy formulation process more democratic. It helps prevent mistakes by listening to people’s experiences. It ensures intensification of public participation in policy making.
More mind-boggling is the fact that the government took more than eight months to implement the changes on Jan 1, 2013.
Did the government need time for preparations before implementing the amendments? If that is the case, does not it reflect that the government and the assembly adopted the amendment without doing their homework?
Had the government and its line departments spent the time (lapsed between the amendments passed in May and their implementation on Jan 1 this year) on doing the groundwork to ensure smooth functioning of the new system, it would surely have helped avoid complications in implementing the changes.
That does not appear to be the case, viewing the situation at present.
There is a gruesome administrative mess at the local governments’ level. Thousands of employees have lost utility and many of them don’t know their role under the new scheme of things. They cannot be laid-off in an election year so they would continue drawing salaries without any utility to the system.
Besides, official procedures need to be streamlined, issues pertaining to administrative authority require resolution, and confusion about financial powers needed to be removed apart from a host of other issues that need immediate attention for rectification.
In reality, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s local government system, like the ones in other provinces, has no more than a showcase value. The law without actually having elected local council is a joke with democracy. The process of democratisation does not complete without having elected local councils, fulfilling the masses’ right to self rule.
These institutions help ensure the masses’ involvement in determining their needs at the local level. A functional democracy can only be achieved by having elected local councils that work to fulfil the people’s local needs and establish a system through which local bureaucracy is made accessible and accountable to the people.
Taking cover under the shroud of insecurity because of terrorists, the provincial government did not hold local body elections. It deprived the people of their basic democratic right to choose their local level representatives. The coalition government of Awami National Party and Pakistan People’s Party abstained from holding the local councils’ elections for reasons not difficult to understand.
By virtue of its decision, the rulers chose to keep the power concentrated at the provincial level. This allowed the members of the provincial assembly to play a greater role in the administrative and financial matters at their local level.
In return, the coalition partners enjoyed an unbridled influence over the members (including opposing MPAs) and governed the province unchallenged.
As a result, what it is leaving behind at the end of its five-year constitutional term on March 15 this year is an administrative chaos and a bureaucracy at the local level known for incompetence and plagued with inefficiencies.