Wangtse Chirphel with accountability

One of the most important developments in the 12th plan is the large scale decentralization of budget and authority to the local governments in 205 Gewogs and 20 Dzongkhags across the country.

The concept of Wangtse Chirphel or decentralization is an important one in the evolution of Bhutanese democracy.

There can be no arguments that decentralization is an important and necessary reform based on the simple premise that the local people know what is best for them and so they should decide with the appropriate authority and budget given to them.

So far so good, but the problem starts creeping in when a lot of the powers, authority and budget is focused more on the Gewog office or the office of the Gup, Mangmi and Tshogpas and less on the people.

An emerging problem with decentralization is that while the Gups, Mangmis and Tshogpas have been given good perks and more importantly enormous powers and functions, there has been no similar moves to enable the villagers to check and balance them or hold them to account.

Some may say there is an election every five years, but a lot can happen in five years and bad local governments or leaders have vast powers to wreck havoc on the lives of people.

The problem here is that the central government while handing over vast powers and budgets to local governments appear to not have read the long list of RAA and ACC reports showing a high level of corruption and abuse of powers in local governments.

Now this same institution has been given more budget and muscle without putting in place adequate avenues for people to check them.

While the ACC in its advertisements asks local people to stay involved in local budgets and programs the hard reality is that there is no law and mechanism by which the budget or decisions making process is open to public scrutiny and checks.

In many past cases local leaders, often without community consent, allowed harmful practices like illegal mining to happen. The same culture still carries on as power is concentrated in the Gewog office and leaders.

What does not help is that central agencies treat the word of these local leaders as Gospel without bothering to verify with the people and then take major decisions.

In many villages a Gup or even Tshogpa can wield more power than a minister or even a judge in many matters.

Decentralization is fine but the objective should be the people and not just a powerful few.

Accountability breeds response-ability.     
Stephen R. Covey

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