No progress in devolution of powers to local govt
TAHIR NIAZ – ISLAMABAD: The elected representatives of the capital city have been facing frustration as there is no progress on devolution of power so that they could serve the masses efficiently.
The local government representatives who were elected in November 2015 are still clueless about the roles and functions of their yet-to-be-allotted offices. Sessions of Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) are regularly held at the Pak-China Friendship Centre, Shakarparian, but the exercise seems to be useless and futile as ‘legally speaking, there is no local government in the capital’.
Nothing has changed on ground for the good of the residents when it comes to service delivery even after introduction of local government system. MCI prepares agenda of the meeting, disposes its business through the sessions but there is no mechanism for implementation on the decisions. With the process for devolution of power going slow and the government showing indifference towards the first-ever local governments system in the capital, the problems of the residents are at the stage where it were before introduction of the system.
The local government system has failed to resolve the basic problems of people mainly due to lack of funds, absence of rules and confusion on the issue of division of assets and liabilities between CDA and MCI. The people of Islamabad are still facing shortage of drinking water and low gas pressure, sanitation problems and the representatives are not in a position to mitigate the sufferings of the residents.
At one hand, the elected representatives feel ineffective and helpless due to the inordinate delay in devolution of powers to the people’s representatives but on the other hand, they are part of the problem. Instead of resolving the issues of the residents as a collective responsibility, they have been seen interested more in their respective constituencies.
A committee comprising elected representatives was formed to resolve the issue of water crisis in the city some weeks back but it has had to be abolished as the UC chairmen started diverting water supply to their constituencies instead of needy sectors. The members of the MCI are also wary of the Mayor having nominated as acting chairman CDA. They are of the opinion that the Mayor instead of protecting the interests of the residents is interested in enjoying the post of chairman CDA. Every MCI session is a witness to the feelings of the members from both sides of the aisle against the Mayor for accepting the post of acting chairman CDA.
The local representatives believe that the city managers are delaying the process of devolution for their ‘unlawful desire to retain some revenue generating departments which are supposed to be devolved to the IMC. In addition to that, the federal government’s overall disinterest in making the local government functional is a leading cause for delay in devolution of powers to the elected representatives as promised to them under the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Local Government Act 2015.
According to the sources in the CDA, devolution of six departments including One Window Directorate, Estate Management, Building Control Section, Rawal Lake Park, F-9 Park, and Zoo and Wildlife Directorate is a bone of contention between the CDA and MCI. The CDA wants to retain them as these are revenue generation departments. On the other hand, MCI is eyeing on these directorates so that it could stand on its own feet financially. It is to mention here that MCI is being run through CDA funds at the moment. According to the clause 130 (succession) of the ICT Local Government Act 2015, the government was bound to complete the process of distribution of assets, liabilities, rights, functions, etc within six months of the commencement of the act. The six months time period lapsed on February 5, 2016. On the other hand, the interior ministry is yet to notify rules for the MCI.
PTI members believe that the ruling party does not want to share its powers with the local representatives. UC-40 Chairman Ali Awan, who hails from the PTI, while talking to The Nation said that the PML-N does not want to share its powers with the local representatives. He lamented that powerless local representatives could do nothing to resolve the problems of their people. “PML-N has their own Mayor, own government, PM and the president and we are unable to understand what hinders them to devolve powers to the grass root level,” he posed a question. He said the CDA generates revenue mainly through auction of plots but provision of basic amenities is responsibility of MCI for which it has no funds. “We are supposed to provide civic services to the residents of Islamabad but how can we do that without having the right to collect taxes?” he questioned. He alleged that the PML-N workers are supporting land mafia instead of serving the masses. He was of the view that legally, there is no local government in the capital as no rules govern the functions of the corporation at the moment. He also lamented that no union council is functional in the city due to lack of funds, staff and will on part of the government.