THE Punjab district and tehsil nazims kicked up a lot of fuss over the government's decision to conduct a special audit of local bodies to determine whether the funds allocated to them were utilized on public welfare programmes or plundered by their heads. Over two dozen nazims from across the province gathered in Lahore on Sunday and pledged to resist the move aimed at curtailing their powers. District Nazim Attock Maj (retd) Tahir Sadiq, who happens to be a close relative of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, had a point when he said that special audit could be conducted either on the request of the concerned district nazim or on the orders of the Local Government Commission. But he should have avoided creating confrontation by observing that nazims would not tolerate any interference in their work by the provincial government. Punjab Chief Minister's Special Assistant Pervez Rashid meanwhile clarified that the special audit would be conducted without any discrimination while reiterating the government's commitment to strengthen the local bodies institution by removing flaws in the administrative affairs and the use of official funds. The provincial government is well within its rights to monitor the working of the local councils to ensure that the funds allocated to them are being properly utilized. The authorities might have felt the need for carrying out this exercise after examining the record of district councils most of which reportedly spent their funds on the campaigns of PML (Q) candidates in the general elections. It was more evident in the provincial capital. There have also been complaints in the past that the Lahore City District Government had been spending money in certain specific areas rather than carrying out development works in the less developed localities. Its top administration cannot escape the blame for turning the city dirtier than it ever was in the past. Mr Rashid rightly observed that the district and tehsil nazims who were objecting to the proposed audit either lacked confidence in them or were just trying to politicize the matter to hide the irregularities they had committed in the past. The government however needs to exercise extra caution in conducting the audit in order to dispel the perception that the whole objective behind this move was to either force the nazims representing the opposition to change their loyalties or to vote them out. This has been happening in the past when political opponents heading various local councils were implicated in false cases and removed from their offices. This sort of armtwisting must end and the government should take appropriate steps to strengthen democratic institutions.