Most LGs don’t have an accountant and engineer as required by the LG Act
The Local Governments (LGs) have been empowered.
In the 12th Plan, 50% of the total budget is allocated to the LGs, thus providing them greater financial autonomy and powers. This is expected to promote ownership and quality delivery of local plan priorities and development by the LGs.
However, the one question that emerges from various quarters is whether the LGs are well equipped to carry out the responsibilities thrust on them.
The annual reports of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) have indicated that it continued to receive the highest number of complaints from LGs every year. This may be attributed to the increasing delegation of responsibilities and resources to the local government without commensurate check and balance and accountability mechanisms. The corruption at the LGs includes embezzlement and misuse of public funds.
Meanwhile, in the 12th Plan, the gewogs will not have to hold budget discussions with the Ministry of Finance and GNHC. Individual gewogs are only required to submit their budget utilization plan.
However, the performance audit report on grant funded (GDG) in 2016 and also the ACC annual reports have pointed out that inadequate human resources have resulted in poor quality and delay of the gewog development.
The Executive Director of the Center for Local Governance, Tharchen said with the allocation of huge financial recourses for the government to prepare and equip LGs with adequate human recourses. It has become very urgent to train existing elected LG members on their legal frame works, planning and monitoring tools, citizens’ engagement in local governance and strengthen principles of good governance.
He said the dzongkhag administrations must rationalize and professionalize their technical supports when it comes to accounts and engineering works to complete all proposed development activities on time.
“Without adequate professional HR and awareness training for existing LG members it is going to affect both quality and progress of development activities,” said the ED.
The LG Act 2014 requires an accountant, engineer and GAO. However, most of the gewog offices still do not have a GAO.
According to Tharchen, most of the corruption happens in LGs because people and the LG elected members are not aware of their mandate, obligation and roles.
He said to reduce such complains we must prepare both LG members and grass root people on the importance of citizen’s engagement in planning and monitoring from day one of their LG activity.
“We also need to train our LG members and community on the basic principles of good governance where any decision is taken with proper consultation with the people first in a more transparent and effective manner, so that both LG members and citizens can hold each other accountable and responsible for their own development works,” said the ED, adding that currently, no serious and concrete strategies are in place from the government side in enhancing LG capacity in these fronts.
The chairman of the Samtse Dzongkhag Tshogdu and also the gup of Tenduk gewog, Nima Dukpa said with decentralization policy, LGs are given greater financial autonomy.
“However, we are facing problems with limited human resources and giving enough HR to LGs will help them serve more efficiently,” he said.
Outlining human resources and capacity development as some of the challenges that LG face, Nima Dukpa said the possible reason for having higher corruption in LGs was because of the lack of capacity, human resources and LGs working autonomously.
He added that measures should be taken to minimize issues related to corruption and that LG members should be given training more efficiently focusing on procurement policies, tendering and other related issues regarding accounting and planning.
LGs can implement 12th Plan successfully if given the adequate HR.
“With the decentralization policy and responsibility to LG, the members should have standard qualification,” said Tenduk gup Nima Dukpa.
Similarly, the chairman of Paro Dzongkhag Tshogdu and the gup of Dopsharri gewog, Tshering Dorji said if accountant and engineer are assigned in each gewog, then there will be no issue of corruption.
“Currently Paro dzongkhag, the gewog accountant and engineer are assigned to look after two or more gewogs and the implementations of plan and service delivery are affected,” he said.
According to him, there are guidelines for grant utilization, procurement, check and balance mechanism to guide them during the process of implementation. As long as the LG functionaries follow these guidelines there wouldn’t be any corruption.
“With increasing roles and responsibilities in the gewog, the concerned authorities should consider setting a minimum qualification for LG functionaries in the near future,” said Tshering Dorji.
The officiating director general of the Department of Local Government, Kado Zangpo said the department also requests the concerned agencies to depute an accountant and engineer to LGs as required in the LG Act.
He said the department has also introduced LG portal to enhance transparency and efficiency at the LGs.
He said most corruption happening at the LGs could be because of administrative lapses.
Similarly, the Royal Civil Service Commission has also mentioned that the commission will conduct a demand-based review of staffing through joint consultation between the LG and the Commission to implement the 12th Plan successfully.
Home and culture affairs minister Sherub Gyeltshen said to implement the 12th Plan successfully, the department of local government is working on to depute one engineer and accountant to each gewog.
Lyonpo said the ministry is in the process of discussing with RCSC on deputing each engineer and accountant.
“We will also review on deputing engineers at dzongkhag to gewog if required,” Lyonpo said, adding that the ministry is also focusing on giving capacity building training to the LG members to implement development activities and to curb corruption practices at the LG level.
According to the ACC report, LGs are more susceptible to corruption as it is at the local level where citizens and the public sector interact most regularly and directly.
The ACC reports states that alleged corrupt practices in LGs include embezzlement, misuse of public funds, abuse of functions for land transactions, encroachment into government land, contract awards and extraction of natural resources.
Most of the complaints related to the LGs are administrative grievances, indicating the need for ACC and Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs to focus on public education and institute grievance redressal mechanisms.
Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu