LAHORE - The Punjab government is mulling over a proposal to restore the institution of deputy commissioner through a bill, District Administration Act, it has been learnt.

Earlier, district offices worked under notifications. Now, it is proposed that statutory protection should be given to the restored offices of the Deputy Commissioners (DC).

Sources privy to development told that the officers wanted smooth transition of powers after existing offices of the DCO would be abolished.

The Punjab Local Government Act 2013 (PLGA 2013) after the district political set ups would give birth to a new administrative hierarchy with DC as the head. Though, two authorities, one for education and the other for health will also be established to improve both of sectors as centralised system has failed to deliver.

An officer told that it was not yet clear what powers the DC would enjoy after the PLGA 2013. Prima-facie it seems that as the new local set up would be more centralised than devolved, the government would like a more powerful DC, as its representative at district level, the officer thought. Otherwise, the writ of government departments at district level will be under question, he feared.

The new system at local level, the officer said, will be an amalgam of 1979 centralised and 2001 decentralised systems. Many of the powers earlier devolved from the province were again retrieved through PLGA 2013 legislation thus weakening the devolution plan of 2001. After the general elections of 2008, the civilian government came into power and failed to maintain local government institutions because no elections could be staged since then. Later, on the orders of the Supreme Court, the Punjab government announced elections for the local bodies and the first stage was held.

It can be recalled that under the 2001 system, the district governments were given responsibilities in agriculture, health, education, community development, information technology, finance and planning, together with revenue previously held by the provinces. They also became financially more competent through transferred funds and local taxes. Town/taluka governments (the middle tier) were assigned most of the functions of the former municipal authorities as the main providers of essential services like water, sanitation, roads and waste disposal. The union councils (lowest/third tier) were envisaged as providing monitoring and oversight of service delivery, as well as undertaking small developmental projects.

Moreover, under the 2001 ordinance, the District Coordination Officer of the district government is equivalent to a chief executive officer, and district police officers were placed under district nazims.