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ISLAMABAD: The development budget allocated to district governments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — the first province to elect local governments in the country — is at the risk of lapsing, due to a failure to train elected representatives and officials on its utilisation.

In fact, the KP Local Government Act 2013 envisioned that 30pc of the provincial development budget would be set aside and distributed among the 25 districts.

Official data shows that there is no apparent issue with the allocation of the development fund for the three tiers of local government — the district councils and Tehsil Municipal Administrations (TMAs) and the village/neighbourhood councils.

In 2016-17, the provincial government allocated a sum of Rs33.9bn for the district annual development programme (ADP). Of the total fund, Rs10.4bn each (30pc) was earmarked for district councils and TMAs, while village and neighbourhood councils would receive Rs13.1bn (40pc) of the amount.

An official of the KP finance department said that funds released for the district ADP existed only on their records. So far, funds have been released for the first three quarters of the current fiscal year to all tiers of the local government.

Lack of training on rules, procedures under LGA 2013 renders elected representatives, officials unable to spend most of annual development funds

“However, we have no record of the actual execution of [projects under] the development funds in all districts,” the official said.

According to provincial government officials, most of the elected representatives as well as local government officials lack the capacity to prepare ADPs against the released funds. “This is one of the major reasons of the under-utilisation of funds,” the official said.

Sources said that only four to eight districts had actually utilised the development funds doled out to local governments. However, since the provincial government does not have accurate data on where the money is spent, any such estimates are mere guesswork.

The newly-established local governments entailed the introduction of new rules and regulations, as well as governance structures and processes. Around 44,000 elected representatives are running the affairs of the government at all three tiers, but hardly any of them has the capacity to understand the new system.

An even greater number of officials is working in the districts (24 assistant directors), TMAs (73 town municipal officers) and village/neighbourhood councils (3,339 secretaries), but they are also new to the local government system.

For capacity-building purposes, a Local Government School was established in Peshawar and tasked with extend training and enhancing the capacity of elected representatives and officials on the Local Government Act 2013, the rules of business, planning and development guidelines and budget and accounts rules.

Official data shows that 22,924 elected representatives, nearly half of the total, were trained over the past 15 months, between October 2015 and December 2016. One training each was also held for district nazims, naib nazims, tehsil/town nazims and naib nazims.

The areas where these trainings were to be held included Peshawar, D.I. Khan, Karak, Abbottabad, Mansehra, Battagram, Mardan, Charsadda, Swabi, Nowshera, Buner, Lakki Marwat and Haripur.

In addition, training has also been initiated for elected representatives of the six districts of the Malakand division under a European Union project.

All trainings held so far were conducted by development partners, an official at the Local Government School said.

According to the official, almost 10 districts remained untouched in terms of training for elected representatives since no development partners were willing to shoulder the burden.

Development partners have supported the school in the development of training manuals for district councillors and nazims to familiarise them with the Local Government Act 2013 and its rules of business, the training of district officials on budget and accounts rules and training district officials on planning and development guidelines.

The local government has adopted all these manuals as part of the permanent curriculum for the training of officials and elected representatives in all three tiers of the local government system, the official said.

“We have prepared a PC-1 for training representatives from these districts,” the Local Government School official said, adding it was expected that the trainings would begin this year. It has taken two years for the provincial government to prepare and finalise the PC-1 for the trainings.

So far, only 1,066 government officials have been trained, a mere 32pc of all officials that need the programme.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2017