22 August, 2014 / Shawwal 25, 1435

KARACHI, July 5: Confusion has been prevailing among local bodies officials over the legality of orders being issued by former administrators who had been relieved of their responsibilities through a notification but directed verbally to hold the charge till fresh appointments, it emerged on Friday.

Sources said that the government issued two notifications on June 27, 2013 reviving the Local Government Ordinance, 1979 with one and relieving district management group (DMG) officials working as administrators of their charge with the other.

Since then, the sources said, low-ranking officials had been confused over taking decisions themselves. As a matter of routine they still looked up to the ex-administrators for instructions, the sources said, adding that the former administrators knowing that they had been relieved of their charge did not give orders in writing anymore. The DMG officials did not sign official documents but issued verbal orders, the sources explained.

Some low-ranking officials requesting anonymity said that in the present situation work had suffered the most, because after being relieved of their charge according to the notification, the officials holding the posts of assistant commissioners, deputy commissioners and commissioners spared little time to hear them. They said they had to wait for hours to get orders on some issues though they could easily get an audience with the former administrators before the June 27 notification.

Despite being government officials, they had to wait hours in order to meet the DMG officers, they said, questioning as to how a common man would be able to meet the officers to get his problems solved.

The officials were of the opinion that the position of administrator was very important and there was a dire need to appoint full-time officials on the post instead of giving additional charge to someone who had been busy with some other work.

Besides, the officials said, they knew that the administrators had been relieved of their charge over a week ago yet they had to go and seek verbal orders from them as the latter did not give orders in writing.

In reply to a question, they said they had to continue the practice fearing that their ex-bosses might be reappointed. However, they were not sure about who would share the responsibility in case the former administrators were not reappointed and their ‘verbal’ orders were challenged in court.

One of the notifications (SOA/LG/4(37)/2011) issued by the local government department on June 27, 2013 states: “In pursuance of the orders of the chief minister, Sindh dated June 4, 2013 on the summary floated by local government department for revival of local councils under Sindh Local Government Ordinance, 1979, all Town, Taluka Municipal Administrations (TMAs) ceased to exist with effect from June 27, 2013, the functioning of local councils will now be performed in accordance with the Local government Ordinance 1979, viz Metropolitan Corporation, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Larkana Municipal Corporations, five District Municipal Corporations of Karachi, 23 district councils, 32 municipal committees, 116 town committees and 1111 union councils.”

The other notification (SOI(SGA&CD)1/8/2013(LGO-1979)) issued on June 27, 2013 by the chief secretary states: “Consequent upon revival of Sindh Local Government Act, 1979 and with the approval of the competent authority, i.e. chief minister, Sindh, this department’s (services, general administration and coordination department) notification of even dated March 4, 2013 is hereby cancelled / withdrawn and the commissioners, deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners are relieved from the charge of administrator of the respective local councils with immediate effect and until further orders.”

Responding to Dawn queries, Sindh Local Government Secretary Ali Ahmed Lund said that there was no ambiguity as the Sindh Local Government Act, 1979 had been revived.

Similarly, he added, the commissioners, deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners holding the charge of administrators had been relieved of the responsibility on June 27, 2013.He explained that since no new administrator was posted so far, they had been ‘verbally’ told to look after the affairs till someone was posted.

Asked why the former administrators were still issuing verbal directives to the staff of local councils and not signing official papers, Mr Lund said that they could not give orders in writing as they had no legal authority after the issuance of the notification that relieved them of their charge.

He said it was probably for this reason that they were not signing official documents also. But this ambiguity would end shortly, he added.

He told Dawn that new administrators would be posted within a few days. Officials belonging to DMG, ex-PCS and SCUG officials could be posted as administrators, he explained in reply to another question.

However, he agreed that some issues might emerge with nearly 75 per cent of the monthly share of the annual budget — of around Rs34 billion — of the local councils being released only a few days back. The low-ranking officials might be confused as to who was authorized to spend that amount, he added.

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