The fruits of 18th Amendment are yet to be reaped by the common man as the provinces are reluctant to devolve their powers to the local tiers. The evidence has proved that local service delivery is efficiently and effectively achieved through the people-centered and controlled governments.
The need for local governments in our country has now got immense importance due to the recent wave of youth movements observed in the political parties’ activities in large urban centers across the country. Experts also expect change in the upcoming elections due to the large presence of youth in the current population structure of the country.
The petition by one of the political party in the Supreme Court and consequent actions by the Election Commission of Pakistan to re-enumerate the current ballot sheets will also result in inclusion of large majority of unregistered youth voters.
The recently held general assembly of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and citizen groups in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania on November 18 and 19, 2011 called for open, transparent and inclusive budgets which will ensure full human rights — civil, social, political, economic, cultural, and environmental.
It is also accepted across the globe that citizen’s engagements in the budget process can enhance improved outcomes of public spending for the poor and marginalised segments of society. The general assembly also calls upon governments to ensure budget openness and transparency at local level and engage with CSOs for bringing social equity.
The recent political turmoil has undermined the need for developing this country into a livable place for citizens, which is only possible if the provinces are ready to devolve their powers to the local people. It seems unacceptable to all the political parties.
The provinces want to drive the local tiers through the strong hand of bureaucracy rather than involving people into the development process. The countries on the globe adopt such systems in which the local people are involved in the planning, implementation and monitoring process, which really makes difference in the lives of common people.
Porto-Alegre, city of Brazil adopted participatory budgeting process way back in 1990s and became one of the success stories around the world. At the grass root level, it involves people into the local budgetary planning process and prioritized the key development sectors which not only enhances effectiveness of the development-spending but also enhances the tax revenues due to citizen engagement. The successful Porto-Alegre model was adopted by more many cities in Brazil.
Do we really need the system, if yes, what type? Where the executive has unlimited powers to control, spend and monitor the public money, to which they do not belong to? Do we need citizens’ engagement at the local level to plan, implement and monitor development projects? The answers to these questions must be sought from four chief ministers to whom this responsibility rests with under the federal devolution plan.
In the past, chief ministers did not seem interested in local government system and wanted to control districts through appointed representatives to whom they can send orders within to overturn any policy or document. However, the current provincial governments are heading towards local systems but at a snail’s pace.
Consultation processes are going on and on only with the political parties, Government and political parties do not consult CSOs and ordinary citizens.
The question arises about these local systems which will be presented in the provincial assemblies without consultation of ordinary citizens. Will it be acceptable to the people they govern? Or will they include ordinary citizens into the local government in such a way that it enhances oversight on implementation and monitoring of public spending?
Poor participation of citizens will lead to greater leakage of public money, weak ownership of public infrastructure, weak accountability and transparency. The current state of mal-governance will exacerbate as public oversight and accountability mechanism could not deliver. This has really pushed forward the need of demand side of governance and social accountability mechanisms. The current system lacks citizens’ voice in the supply side accountability mechanisms.
The local government system in the provinces must be people-centered with maximum inclusion of local people. The provincial government must take affirmative actions for more participatory approach towards drafting the local government system that includes the concerned citizen groups, CSOs and ordinary people. Once the draft is prepared, it must be consulted at the local levels before presenting it to the assembly for any discussion.
This system should have inbuilt mechanisms to solicit feedback from the citizens on periodic basis such as the “Citizen Report Card” on delivery of key services by the district governments.
The writer is a researcher and can be contacted at email@example.com
This article was originally published at: The News
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.