Waiting for rules: Transparency a key concern with local government officials

Internal watchdog to oversee movement of funds; recruitment of auditors under way

Sohail Khattak July 01, 2015
We have devised a tentative schedule for training the newly-elected councillors at the district, tehsil, village and neighbourhood levels. PHOTO: FILE

PESHAWAR: While there may be glory in having conducted province-wide local government polls, the gauge of success will be how soon and how well an actual working system is put in place. One of the overarching concerns of officials privy to routine workings in the department was the transparency of funds.

“You have no idea how funds are misappropriated once they are released,” said an LG department official referring to the disbursement of funds within the three-tier system. “How will transparency be ensured is a question yet to be answered.” The official said the incumbent government has taken consultants on board to keep an eye on fund utilisation however, “involving consultants in every small-scale development project is next to impossible.”

In the driving seat

Money becomes a secondary question -- the first being how capable the system will be. Awareness among elected representatives remains crucial. The DROs and ROs will administer oaths to the councillors and elected nazims and naib nazims once council sessions are called.

“We have devised a tentative schedule for training the newly-elected councillors at the district, tehsil, village and neighbourhood levels,” said another department official, requesting not to be named. He added nazims, naib nazims and women will be trained separately. “We have already begun working and have briefed the trainers in this regard.”

He said the new set-up’s rules of business were drafted on May 11 and after consultation from other departments, were sent to the chief minister for his approval.

Regarding the appointments of local council secretaries he said, “They will be recruited very soon.” The appointments were waiting on the result announcement by the ECP. Under Section 106 of the K-P Local Government Act 2013, the department is not allowed to make fresh recruitments during the transition period without the government’s approval.

The services of as many as 3,500 secretaries – government employees running the offices – are required across the province, along with the same number of Class-IV employees. As of now, 50% of the secretaries are already available, including 986 from the previous tenures. “The offices have been refurbished and new space has also been acquired.”

Internal watchdog

When approached for a comment, LG department PRO Ghulam Hussain said an internal audit cell would keep an eye on the movement of funds on a monthly basis. “The finance department closed down its fund audit cell; now every government department will have its own cell,” he added.

Hussain said recruitment of auditors began on Wednesday. He added, “The cell will monitor every issued voucher and cheque, and will audit the councils every month unlike the previous LG set-up where the finance department would conduct test audits and okay all the books.”

The PRO added, “Earlier the system was exempted from the Auditor General office’s scrutiny but now they will also oversee disbursement.” He confirmed, in accordance with the chief minister’s directives, new furniture has been procured and all preparations are complete for the establishment of the LG system.

The Khattak administration allocated an unprecedented amount of money for LG in the Rs488 billion provincial budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2015.

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