‘Bureaucracy creating hurdles’ in Islamabad local govt

LG representatives say summaries to interior, finance ministries often returned with objections

Shahzad Anwar August 30, 2018
Mayor of Islamabad and Chairman Capital Development Authority (CDA) Sheikh Anser Aziz. PHOTO: INP

ISLAMABAD: Representatives of Islamabad’s local government on Wednesday slammed the bureaucracy in the civic agency for creating hurdles in the smooth division of assets and transfer of functions from departments to the council.

This frustration was voiced during the 26th Session of the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation (IMC) which met at the Pakistan-China Friendship Centre on Wednesday. The session had been presided over by Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz along with other members of the corporation.

Instead of sticking to the agenda items of the meeting, deliberated over the water shortage plaguing the city, encroachment, cleanliness or lack thereof, rules of business, schedule of establishment, release of funds and a first information report (FIR) filed against a member of the local government.

Over 300 senior bureaucrats serving on deputation

Aziz and Chief Metropolitan Officer (CMO) Syed Najaf Iqbal told the house about the distribution of assets between the IMC and the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

The mayor said that following approval from a high-level committee, these assets were supposed to be devolved from the CDA to the IMC. To resolve the asset distribution issue permanently, the distribution of assets would be discussed by the high-level committee constituted in this regard.

However, Iqbal strongly criticized CDA Chairman Ishrat Ali, the CDA Labour Union and the bureaucracy in the interior and finance ministries for creating hurdles in the division of assets and transfer of municipal functions to local government.

The CMO alleged that Ali was continuously lying at every forum regarding the division of assets and transfer of functions to the IMC. Ostensibly, Iqbal offered, this was being done on the instigation of CDA’s worker union.

Moreover, the CMO further complained that they had sent a summary for the approval of rules of business, schedule of establishment and administrative powers of the IMC to the Interior Ministry three months ago. However, the ministry returned these to the IMC after raising no less than 16 objections on it. The finance ministry, on the other hand, had rejected on multiple occasions a summary to release funds for the local government set up.

Iqbal further said that the IMC had no money to run its day-to-day affairs and the corporation had to approach the CDA to release the smallest of sums.

During the meeting chairmen of union councils from the rural parts of the city protested against the city government for failing to include issues and problems faced by residents of the rural areas of the city in the day’s agenda. They threatened to boycott the next meeting of the house unless their issues were included.

During Wednesday’s session, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Union Council Chairman Chaudhry Manzoor told the house that the district administration had registered an FIR against him and his son on the eve of Eidul Azha for allegedly setting up a cattle market in their union council in violation of a ban on additional cattle markets.

He said that after the FIR was registered, he had attempted to contact the CMO on multiple occasions, but he did not pick his phone call.

At this, the local government members voiced their support for Manzoor and decried the FIR lodged against him. They climbed onto their seats and chanted slogans in Manzoor’s favour.

The house members complained that the action of auctioning and holding cattle markets was the discretion of the local government, but the district administration consistently intrudes on the authority of local representatives by auctioning the markets on its own.

Local government representatives urged the mayor to summon the deputy commissioner in next meeting of the house otherwise all members will stage a protest outside the commissioner’s office.

They further said that an FIR lodged against one member of the house would be considered as an FIR against all the members of the IMC.

The mayor and the CMO, however, expressed their ignorance over the matter.

Shortage of water

Aziz told the House that in the wake of recent rains, the water level in the Simly Dam had increased substantially while the underground water levels too have increased due to which extraction of water from tube wells has also increased.

He said that when the IMC was established, only 50 of the 192 tube wells installed in the city were operational. However, they have worked to repair them and now 150 tube wells were supplying water properly while repair and maintenance on remaining tube wells were in progress.

The mayor said that water supply from the Simly Dam had risen from 24 million gallons per day (mgd) to 30 mgd.

PML-N UC Chairman Azhar Mehmood claimed that the CMO had presented a bogus report to the Supreme Court regarding water shortage in the capital. He explained that the CMO had allegedly presented the points of view of certain national assembly lawmakers and private water hydrants instead of the views of elected local government representatives.

Bureaucracy braced for major shake-up

When the CMO tried to explain that the report had been submitted by Aitzaz Ahsan, he was castigated by IMC members who admonished him for thrice summoning IMC sessions thrice on short notices.

IMC member went on to accuse the CMO of “supporting corrupt CDA officials”.

At this, the CMO got up and told the house that the bureaucracy in CDA, Interior, finance and Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) ministry were, in fact, creating hurdles in the operations of IMC.

He lamented that the previous government had failed to allocate a budget for the local government nor did it take the local government set up seriously.

Iqbal said the IMC needed Rs16 billion to carry out its functions but the money was not being released.

He said that a summary for releasing Rs14 billion had been submitted to the interior ministry for the release of development of non-development expenditures but the summary had been rejected again.

The CMO lamented that it seems the government does not want to give funds to the IMC.

“We can run affairs of the corporation through an executive order but we do not want to execute it in an illegal manner,” the CMO said, adding that the CDA management was creating hurdles in the transfer of 71 directorates to the IMC.

Moreover, he accused the CDA of usurping Rs16 billion from the IMC’s accounts without taking the corporation into confidence.

In this regard, he said that the IMC had written to the CDA to stop them from withdrawing the money from the corporation’s account without permission.

He lamented that the IMC was powerless and at the mercy of the CDA to transfer and post its employees.

In face of such a bleak assessment, the mayor tried to put on a brave face, stating that while he could not do all that he had hoped for over the past two and a half years, it does not mean that the system was a complete failure.

At this IMC member, Fauzia Arshad asked the mayor why he had failed to focus on the financial powers, rules of business and schedule of establishment earlier.

If he had tackled this early in the local government’s tenure, the corporation would not have had to face such difficulties.

Asset distribution

The session was also briefed on the distribution of assets between the IMC and CDA.

Aziz told IMC members that after approval of a high-level committee these assets would be devolved.

The meeting also discussed the responsibilities given to the elected representatives to monitor the progress of environment staff.

The members unanimously supported the monitoring system and said that to maintain the green character of the capital and removal of wild bushes and grass, the environment wing would be made more efficient and active.

The session also unanimously approved the enhancement of TAB vaccination fee which is charged from workers of eateries and engaged in the business of production of edible products. This fee will be enhanced from Rs30 currently to Rs150.

The House also discussed encroachment made by the restaurants in Saidpur Model Village and decided that in the next session, complete details will be presented before the house so that a comprehensive policy could be evolved.

The house also unanimously approved a resolution against sacrilegious caricatures and requested the government to raise this issue at the relevant forums.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2018.


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