Press conference: Spotlighting gaps in draft for local government bill

Activists call for party-based and constituency-based direct elections in a joint electoral system.


Our Correspondent July 29, 2013
According to the charter of demand, there should be no rural-urban divide in the application of local governments. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:


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 “Citizens’ 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, meetings’ 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.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2013. 

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