The Dilemma of Local Government in KP: Allocation of Funds Remains the Biggest Problem
Good governance and the local government institutions are closely inter-linked. The local government institutions have allowed effective participation and involvement of people in their decision and public-policy making at grass-roots level.
The 18th Amendment has made the federating units as the custodians of local government institutions. The Clause (1) of Article 140A of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan provides for establishment of local government system and devolution of political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local government.
Provincial autonomy was a landmark in the history of the country which paved the way for the common people in achieving economic growth and democratic values at their doorstep. Development – whether social, economic or political – becomes meaningful and real when it stems from the lower societal level, i.e. the grassroots level.
The local government is about personal involvement of the local representatives with the affairs concerning the locality and their solution. If the local people are denied the association with life, they would not only put off their talent, initiative energy and enterprise, but also maybe tend to lose all their sense of responsibility.
To overcome such barriers in the day-to-day life of common people, more than 90 per cent of democracies around the world have now elected sub-national government. Both the rich and poor countries are devolving administrative, fiscal and political powers to sub-national tiers of government.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act of 2013, according to an official, is considered an exemplary legislation which in its true sense had devolved the power beyond the district, tehsil and union council to even the lower tier of village and neighbourhood council. However, with respect to allocation of funds specified under the Act, the local government did not comply with the proposed budgetary allocations..
The due financial share supposedly allocated for local government in the year 2015-16 was Rs33.9 billion but the finance department only released Rs15.12 billion. This disbursement of fund hardly meets the needs of local bodies to ensure the efficiency of their job while serving community or resolving immediate/daily issues.
The funds, according to the Act, were supposed to be distributed quarterly but the PTI led government released Rs21.61 billion in the first three quarters of this fiscal year against the Rs33.27 billion allocated in the budget. Furthermore, the total funds for local government were reduced to Rs28 billion in the financial year 2016-17.
Further disparities in funds were found in the last five years when it comes to districts. Among the others, Nowshehra, the home district of former chief minister Pervez Khattak, got Rs19 billion in the last five years. This indicate that the under-developed and remote areas had been constantly ignored as the allocation of funds formula is based on “might is right”.
These disparities were starkly visible in the allocation of funds of the home districts of former chief minister, influential minister and former assembly speaker, while others having no influential representatives in the assembly were entirely ignored.
Peshawar among other districts received Rs57 billion followed by Mardan, the home district of sitting senior minister Atif Khan Rs11 billion, Swabi, the home district of former provincial assembly speaker Assad Qaisar, Rs10 billion, Swat Rs15 billion and Abbottabad Rs6 billion.
The least budgetary allocations went to Tank with Rs328 million. The neglected districts in ADPs include Battagram, Karak and Lakki Marwat during the last five years of the PTI government.
The figures show that there is a dire need for specifying a formula or mechanism for budgetary allocation to further ensure equitable distribution of funds to the districts.
Local government basically is about empowering the local elected representatives to have the authority to use/allocate resources according to their own problems and priorities. This role in its true spirit is possible whence the local government has direct control over revenue/tax collection up to the maximum level. If the local government is dependent on any higher tier for its expenditure/finance then the pace of delivery will be slowed.
Moreover, the process of disciplinary actions against functionaries is repulsive and complex. The real issue is the elite model where one with authority and acquaintance can enjoy the privileges, while those who do not have strong social bonds with the so-called elite have no say in any of the process or decision making.
There is an urgent need for a just and independent system where the decision they make should be independent and should hold a strong place, but the system is still having a problem of self-serving attitude and interest-based culture. The institutional transgression factor needs to be curbed because of its unjust and negative consequences on both representatives and governance pattern.
Although the new system provides sufficient institutional arrangements for organising the community at grass root level, the number of returned women, workers, peasants and minority candidates in all unions through five rounds of local government elections indicate that the system have opportunities for empowering the traditionally marginalised segments of the society. But for true empowerment of community, the system itself must be financially viable and sustainable and trigger income generation and employment creation opportunities/ activities for the poor and historically backward areas.