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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Jul 30, 2013

Press conference: Spotlighting gaps in draft for local government bill

Representatives of civil society on Monday presented a
list of recommendations for the proposed draft Punjab Local Government
Bill of 2013, aimed to make district governments more democratic and
accountable.

The "Citizen’s Charter of Demand on Local Governments Legislation"
was presented by civil society organisations working under AAWAZ, Voice
and Accountability programme, at a press conference held at Sustainable
Development Policy Institute.

Civil society representatives presented a charter of demand after
reviewing the draft legislation on new local government systems in
Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to highlight issues with representation of
women, minorities, people’s participations and the autonomy local
governments deserve.

They demanded a minimum of 33% proportional representation of women,
10% for peasants or labourers, and 5% for non-Muslims with gender
balance through reservation of seats in all three tiers of local
governments to be filled through party-based and constituency-based
direct elections in a joint electoral system.

Aurat Foundation Chief Operating Officer Naeem Mirza shared some
points from the charter of demand with media persons. He said local
governments should be considered as the third tier of governance with
constitutional guarantees against unlawful abrogation or dissolution.

According to the charter of demand, there should be no rural-urban divide in the application of local governments.

Union councils should have at least 18 members in addition to seats
for mayors and deputy mayors to ensure people’s participation and
inclusion of all excluded groups in the local governments for effective
service delivery and gender equality.

The charter of demand states that an autonomous local government
commission needs to be established under the chairmanship of the chief
minister to look after local government affairs.

Allocation of development funds to elected representatives should be made through a transparent, fair and rights-based process.

New local government legislation in all provinces should empower the
local government to develop and execute disaster risk reduction and
management plans under the supervision of the Provincial Disaster
Management Authority.

People should be given access to information on development planning,
budgeting expenditure, meeting’s minutes and other matters of
governance at the district level and lower tiers. "A district
ombudsperson may be appointed to make, local government departments
accountable and efficient. District public accounts committees should be
introduced to create a  check and balance, " reads the charter of
demand.

Participants said they appreciated provincial governments for
fulfilling their constitutional obligations and initiating the process
of legislation on local self-governance. According to Mirza, AAWAZ is in
consultation with the provincial government to overcome all the gaps in
the proposed draft bill.