NC points out local governance issues

As per the resolution passed by the National Council during its 15th session, the Good Governance Committee commissioned a local governance assessment study, to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of the local governments in bringing developmental changes in the communities.

The committee’s assessment and the consolidated findings of the report are presented in three categories of decentralization, such as political, administrative and fiscal decentralization.

Political decentralization

The study found that the government’s efforts in the decentralization process have brought decision-making power and public services closer to the people, and has also enhanced citizen’s engagement with elected LG officials and appointed staff, like gewog administrative officer and extensions officers.

The assessment, found that most of the dzongkhags and gewogs have not established all of the standing committees, which has often left only little time to discuss agendas during Dzongkhag Tshogdu and Gewog Tshogde meetings.

Currently, social accountability and grievance redressal mechanism are either weak or non-existence and communities rarely make complaints with LGs.

It is not that people have no complaints about the LGs and the services, but it is due the lack of clear and effective complaints mechanism including channels for feedback and redressal for the communities to file their grievances, and as a result, complaints are either made to MPs or the ACC which otherwise can be dealt within LGs.

Trongsa National Councillor, Tharchen, said “We have framed proper rules and regulation for the local administrators, though they have right to make plans and policies, they do not have the right to allocate budget, we need to empower them in allocating budget.”

He talked about the need for tours for the officials, like Gup, Mangmi and Tshogpa

from gewogs to gewogs in order to share information and inculcate new knowledge.

He said, most of the meetings carried out at the gewog or chiwog levels are either attended by the elderly with hearing problems or young people, thus resulting in misinformation.

Administrative decentralization

The assessment found that there is no explicit decentralization policy and so in the absence of proper framework, it has promoted an unintended mixed type of decentralization, human resource and LG capacity issues, over sight and support role, uniform one- size -fits all approaches.

The current practice on budgets gives local governments little autonomy. Even to plan, coordinate and implement sector activities, extension officers do not feel as if they are part of LGs, and instead pay allegiance to their ‘parent’ sector ministries.

The study found that while adapting to so many types of decentralization at the same time, there is high risk of confusion between the different stakeholders.

Chukha National Councillor, Pema Tenzin, said, “When we decentralized power to the head of the local government, he or she must have the quality to handle all those people under their jurisdiction.”

The committee has put forth the recommendation that the government develop a consolidated national decentralization policy supplemented that will set a clearer pathway for decentralization process in the country.

The assessment made in the study points out that capacities of LG leaders differ from one gewog to another and also the potential to share and learn from each other’s best practices across gewogs rather than always looking out for training opportunities outside the country or inviting external experts in the country to conduct the training.

Fiscal decentralization

The study found that sound efforts have been made by the government towards establishing an effective fiscal transfer system with the introduction of Annual Capital Grant system. Subsequently, the allocation of resources to the local governments has increased over the years.

The total allocation to the local governments for the 11th Five Year Plan constitutes 29 percent of the total outlay, which is 25 percent increase from the 10th Five Year Plan.

Local Government receives a share of the national budget in a form of annual capital grants, which is based on a Resource Allocation Formula (RAF). The current RAF is based on 4 criteria, population (35% weight), area (10% weight), multidimensional poverty index (45%), and transport cost Index (10% weight).

As per the grants guidelines 80 percent of the ACG amount is tied to the 11th Five Year Plan, whereas the remaining 20 percent can be used by LGs more flexibly for implementing programs and activities over and above the five year plan.

From the total grant, 60 percent of the funds are retained at the dzongkhag level and 40 percent is allocated to the gewogs.

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