RAWALPINDI: The Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation (RMC) does not know how to use Rs1.4 billion in development funds allocated for the 2019-20 fiscal year because the Punjab government has not outlined any policy in this regard.

On May 5, the Punjab government had changed to local government system because it was not planning to hold elections for union council chairmen. At present, commissioners across the province have been appointed administrators of civic bodies.

However, without elected union council chairmen to identify the needs of 46 union councils, the RMC cannot begin any development projects.

Since the local govt system was changed in May, the provincial govt has not issued a new policy for projects

A senior RMC official told Dawn the provincial government does not have a clear policy in the absence of elected union council members, and so the RMC will not begin any development work in the city.

He said that last year, elected members who were mostly from the PML-N had suggested more than 100 projects, but the PTI-led provincial government banned development work.

The ban was lifted after the local government system was changed, but the government did not say who would identify areas for development work.

Under the local government act, elected members will identify areas or suggest road construction work, he said, adding that roads and streets are in disrepair for this reason while RMC officials have failed to pay attention to this issue.

“There is a proposal under consideration in the Punjab local government department that local parliamentarians from the PTI could be consulted for development work,” he said, adding that local MPAs would be asked for their recommendations in their constituencies once the government gives a go-ahead.

When contacted, former PML-N MNA Malik Shakil Awan said the city was being run by unelected individuals, as the government changed the local government system to remove mayors and district chairmen from the PML-N.

He said the PTI would not hold local government elections in the province out of fear of the people’s resentment towards their policies.

He said that the PTI was divided between its local leaders and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed when it came to the affairs of the district and the city, as both sides want to handle their issues.

Rawalpindi Development Authority Chairman Arif Abbasi, a PTI leader, said the government has appointed the commissioner administrator of the RMC and a new policy for development work will be issued soon.

The senior RMC official said development funds would be spent soon, after government directions, as the local government minister has changed and the department is now under the control of Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2019