ISLAMABAD - In what looks like a move beyond his domain, Mayor Islamabad Sheikh Anser Aziz has been single-handedly drafting “MCI Service Regulations” and emerges as the biggest beneficiary of the same with getting the administrative powers in Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) hierarchy quite equivalent to that of ‘Chairman’ in the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

The move however, has no legal effect, according to the high ups at the CDA.  Apparently going beyond his mandate of limiting himself to execute and manage development plans; and help provide, manage, operate, maintain and improve the municipal infrastructure and services, Chief Officer MCI, Syed Najaf Iqbal former DCO Narowal and a BPS-19 officer of Punjab Civil Services (PCS) cadre. issued two notifications on 21 December 2018; one to delegate administrative powers to Mayor Islamabad in MCI hierarchy quite equivalent to that are being enjoyed by ‘Chairman’ in the CDA and also delegate himself administrative powers that are being enjoyed by the five Board Members in the CDA; and the second to amend the “Islamabad Fire Prevention and Life Safety Regulations-2010” that also resulted in delegating powers to the Mayor, Chief Officer MCI and the Director E and DM, MCI as are being enjoyed by the Chairman, Board Members and Director E and DM in CDA respectively. It is to mention here that a BPS-20 officer is usually appointed as a CDA Board Member. The CDA Board comprises Chairman, Member (Finance), Member (Administration), Member (Planning & Design), Member (Estate) and Member (Engineering). Going by notification 341, the Chief Officer MCI will enjoy the powers that are being enjoyed by all the five Members in the CDA.

The notification 341 issued by the Chief Officer said: “In continuation to the earlier notification issued vide this office dated 12 December 2018, the CDA Service Regulations-1992, CDA Financial and Accounting Procedures is hereby adopted in Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad for a period of 6 months in the following manners”, followed by a table describing ‘Delegation of Powers’. Through the notification, MCI House has been declared an entity as powerful as is the CDA Board when it comes to administrative and monetary decisions. Similarly, Director Admin/HRD, MCI has been empowered quite equivalent to the DG/Director (Admin HRD) in the CDA. DG/DDG/Director in MCI would enjoy the powers being enjoyed by DG/DDG/Director in the CDA and Director in MCI as the powers of Director in CDA. Deputy Financial Advisor/Director in MCI would enjoy the powers that are being enjoyed by DFA/Director in the CDA, according to the notification.

A separate notification issued by the Chief Office of MCI said that “In exercise of the powers of Executive Authority conferred by sub-section 1&2, section 63, Chapter VI of ICT Local Government Act-2015 and consequent upon approval by the MCI on 22 November 2018, Mayor MCI being executive head of MCI is pleased to approve amendments in ‘Islamabad Fire Prevention and Life Safety Regulations-2010’ to implement in the MCI”, followed by a table describing ‘Delegation of Powers”. Under the notification, Mayor MCI will enjoy the powers as that of Chairman in CDA; Chief Officer MCI will enjoy the powers as that of the concerned Board Members in CDA; and Director E&DM, MCI has been delegated the powers as that of Director E and DM in CDA.

When contacted, officials at the CDA who spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity were of the view that the move on part of the Mayor and the Chief Officer is not within the ambit of law. “It’s quite unusual, bizarre and has no legal effect. How can a person delegate powers himself. The ministry of Interior only can issue such a notification if the situation demands so,” said a senior officer at the CDA. When asked if sub-section 1&2, section 63, Chapter VI of ICT Local Government Act-2015 empowers the Mayor and subsequently to the Chief Officer to issue notifications and delegate powers equivalent to Chairman CDA and Board Members CDA to Mayor and Chief Officer MCI respectively, the officer said the section which deals with “Executive Powers and Conduct of Business” does not empower the Mayor and subsequently the Chief Officer to issue such notifications. When asked if the MCI house can, through a notification, be declared as powerful as the CDA Board, the officer was of the view that the Board members are answerable and responsible for their decisions and added how a Corporation House can be delegated powers to take decisions on purely technical and administrative issues where no one can be held accountable for the decision.

MCI had come into existence after 2015 local bodies’ elections in the Islamabad Capital Territory held under Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Act-2015. Chapter VI of the Act (Executive Powers and Conduct of Business), section 63 sub-section (I) titled “Executive Authority and Conduct of Business” explicitly says that “The executive authority of a local government shall extend to doing of all acts necessary for the due discharge of its functions under this Act.” The sub-section (II) says that the executive authority of a local government shall vest in and be exercised by its Mayor or Chairman.

Another officer at the CDA termed the notifications of no legal effect. He was of the view that the Mayor was trying to single-handedly draft MCI Service Regulations which is not his mandate and added the Chief Officer could not issue such notifications. He said the move would be declared null and void once referred for legal opinion. “Had it been the case, the notification should have been issued by the Chief Officer much earlier. Why did the Mayor and Chief Officer waste three years in pursuing the rules and regulations for MCI at the interior ministry which are still pending there,” he added.

It is pertinent to mention here that around 10,000 employees were given under the administrative control of the MCI for smooth functioning of the Corporation but they are still being regulated under the CDA Employees Service Regulations-1992. The reason for the same is that MCI still lacks proper rules and regulations although it came into existence around three years ago. According to chapter 8 of CDA Employees Service Regulations-1992, which deals with the ‘Authority’ and ‘Authorized Officer’, for employees in BPS-20, Secretary of the administrative division concerned is ‘Authority’ and Chairman [CDA] is the ‘Authorised Officer’; for employees in BPS-18 and 19, Chairman is the ‘Authority’ and Member concerned is the ‘Authorised Officer’; for employees in BPS-11 to 17, Member concerned is the ‘Authority’ and Director concerned is the ‘Authorised Officer’; while for employees in BPS-1 to 10, Director concerned is the ‘Authority’ and Deputy Director concerned is the ‘Authorised Officer’. The schedule of establishment for the MCI is also yet to be notified.

In June 2016, certain formations and allied CDA staff related to municipal services were transferred to the MCI. The CDA employees had opposed their transfer to the MCI. The total strength of the civic agency before the MCI was over 18,000 of which over 10,000 employees were transferred to MCI; 5,540 are working for both the CDA and MCI and the CDA has 2,805 employees in its own directorates.

The approval of rules and regulations for the MCI is facing an inordinate delay as they are being passed back and forth between the Establishment Division and the finance ministry since the last several months. In October 2018, an interior ministry official had informed the Senate Standing Committee on Interior that the MCI cannot function properly without its rules and regulations and cannot spend the funds it collects against various municipal services. The official had told the committee that the interior ministry had forwarded the proposed rules many months ago but they are yet to be approved by the establishment division and the finance ministry. The MCI was formed in 2016 following the local government elections in the capital city in Nov 2015 but is still technically an ineffective body.

In November 2018, MCI had approved the adoption of CDA (Employees) Service Regulation-1992 and CDA Financial and Accounting Procedures in the absence of Service Regulations and Financial and Accounting Procedures of MCI. This was approved during the 28th Session of MCI. MCI also approved the adoption of schedule of establishment up to the approval of rules of MCI. These procedures and regulations were adopted until the approval of rules of MCI as the MCI would make all out efforts to frame its rules and regulations within the stipulated time. However, the Chief Officer found a simple solution to the problem and issued two notifications to delegate administrative powers to the Mayor and himself.

MCI and CDA had been at odds over transfer, posting of the employees in directorates of the Corporation. Syed Najaf Iqbal, Chief Metropolitan Officer of MCI had asked the CDA officers not to interfere in transfer and posting in the directorates and that no posting should be made without the consent of the MCI office. However, the CDA continued making transfer and postings in the directorates. CDA transferred without the consent of the MCI and appointed a grade 18 officer Mohammad Attaullah Malik as director emergency and disaster management. Besides, CDA also made two other transfers and postings, making Ghulam Asghar Khan, a grade 19 officer, as deputy director general estate wing. He was previously posted as director estate management. Roshan Khan, awaiting posting, was appointed as director labour relations. However, the posting of Attaullah Malik, as director emergency and disaster management, a directorate working under the MCI, perturbed the Corporation’s Chief Officer, who hours after posting, issued a letter, stating: “All MCI formations are hereby directed that any posting/transfer orders issued by the directorate of human resource department of CDA shall not be implemented in MCI without the approval of Chief Officer/Mayor.” Whereas, in a separate letter, which was addressed to the CDA Chairman, the Chief Officer said: “It has already been made clear that the CDA has no authority to post/transfer, give additional or look after charge to anyone from MCI formations without prior approval of Chief Officer /Mayor as per law. It has been observed with great concern that HRD, CDA has issued the posting transfer orders of Mohammad Attaullah Malik, as director Emergency and disaster management on look-after basis in violation of law,” read the CMO’s letter, which added that this order cannot be implemented here and is considered null and void for the purpose of MCI. The correspondence between the CDA and MCI officials reflects the scope of tussle between the two entities. Meanwhile, CDA has been releasing salaries of MCI employees, as loan, as so far, MCI does not have funding.

When asked if the Mayor and the Chief Officer were empowered to issue such notifications, Director Media MCI, Syed Safdar Shah told this scribe that the Mayor and the Chief Officer have been empowered so under the Act. He was of the view that the notifications have been covered by the approval of the MCI House. However, he said the Chief Officer should have mentioned in the notifications that they were being issued with the approval of the Mayor which he said, is not the case. When asked if the solution to MCI lacking rules and regulations was so simple in the eyes of the Mayor and the Chief Officer, why did they take three years to proceed this way, Shah said that MCI, during the tenure of Chief Officer Asad Kiani had submitted MCI rules and regulations to the interior ministry for approval which, he said, are still pending there and added that under the circumstances, the Chief Officer issued the notifications as they were finding it difficult to run the day-to-day affairs. Chief Officer Syed Najaf Iqbal could not be reached for comments on the issue despite repeated attempts.