23 July, 2014 / Ramazan 24, 1435

LAHORE, July 26: The provincial government on Friday introduced the Punjab Local Government Bill 2013 leaving it up to the Punjab Assembly to decide whether the third tier of government should be party or non-party based.

Speaking on the floor of the house and later briefing the media, Law and Local Government Minister Rana Sanaullah pledged accommodating suggestions of the opposition, media and civil society for improving the draft law.

The bill, he said, was finalised after multiple consultative meetings both at party (PML-N) and government level, and taking input from the elected representatives, departments concerned and professionals.

He offered co-opting two members of the Punjab Assembly’s press gallery committee for the standing committee on local government tasked to vet the bill.

Responding to a question, he said the office of deputy commissioner would be restored, replacing the district coordination officer after the passage of the bill though the DC would not be as powerful as it used to be before devolution of powers in 2001.

He said a committee under the chair of the chief secretary had been formed to suggest measures for overcoming the problems to be faced due to changes in the district administration system with restoration of the office of DC.

He told a questioner that the government was in favour of restoring district magistracy system for swift tackling of problems like price-hike, encroachments, adulteration in food items and other municipal affairs but could not do so because of some court verdicts (about separation of the judiciary from the executive).

About the proposed health and education authorities at the district level, the minister said the step was taken on the demand of donor agencies. He explained that the authorities would be controlled by the elected people from among the councillors though the government had the discretion of appointing professionals as their chairpersons.

Regarding the chief minister’s proposed powers of taking action against heads of local councils, he said the powers were already vested in the chief executive of the province under the previous system and what the draft law had done was elaborate the misconduct that would necessitate action.

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