LAHORE - To materialise its dreams to introduce good governance and transparency in the system, the Punjab government is considering forming governance cells throughout the province, The Nation has learnt.

Sources privy to this development said the cells would be established at police station level to deal with checking of weights and measures, encroachments on public lands, price control of different commodities and food security issues. If the proposal was matured, a separate force would be established to execute the functions of the cells, they added. The force would be given some powers of police to arrest the criminals involved in certain crimes instead of waiting for police to do the same, they pointed out.

According to the sources, the police force will continue to deal with only heinous crimes like murders, robberies, rapes and others besides ensuring law and order. Unnecessary burden on the shoulders of the police would be reduced to a great extent. The cells will perform many functions under one roof and report to one officer, the assistant commissioner, they said, adding it would help accelerate service delivery. They asserted the force with executive powers would be able to seal the properties and businesses found guilty of violating rules.  Presentation on the subject has been given to the chief minister and the chief secretary while the additional chief secretary has been assigned the task of accomplishing the process of forming cells at police station level.

After restoration of the post of assistant commissioner, the authorities thought it feasible to give him the powers he used to enjoy under the executive magistracy system, an officer said. He mentioned legislation like Right to Information Act 2013, proposed draft of Right to Public Services Bill 2014 and women empowerment.

He said the governance cells, if shaped, would deal with the key areas concerning governance. The collaboration with various government departments at any level was imperative, so the new cells were being established, which would act as a catalyst to enhance the process of governance to bring about changes.

Some officials, commenting on the idea of forming governance cells, called it another show-off just to adjust their own people at ‘thana’ level. Terming the move a burden on the kitty, they called it a step to reduce authority of police and give more powers to civil servants at district level. On one hand, the police had been given vast powers to discharge their duties, but now these powers were being assigned to the special cells.

They said the idea of key performance indicators (KPIs), once an attractive proposition, was floated and welcomed, but it faced its fatal fate, later, because it was a check on the mighty ruling bureaucracy. The KPIs were to be means to measure efficiency of government sector departments in quantifiable terms.

Welcoming the new legislation to address the public grievances like Services Delivery Bill and RTI, they said, the need was to implement the existing laws in their true sense. The need, they said, was to introduce performance audit in the public sector to ensure good governance, a dream of the incumbent government.