ISLAMABAD: The federal government has decided to make amendments to the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Local Government Act 2015 to ensure that only elected representatives held offices of the mayor and deputy mayors.

Sources told Dawn that Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Capital Development Authority (CDA) Affairs Ali Nawaz Awan, former finance minister MNA Asad Umar and some government officials on Friday discussed the local government law and proposed a number of changes to it to make the local government system more vibrant.

The sources said it was agreed that there should be a bar on reserved seat holders taking part in the election for mayor and his deputies.

Aim of making amendments to Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Act is to make system vibrant, PTI lawmaker says

Before contesting the election for the office, Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz of the PML-N was elected to the house on a reserved seat.

Same was the case with Deputy Mayor Chaudhry Riffat Javed.

The sources said amendments to the LG law would also ensure that taxes collected within the capital territory are utilised for the welfare of the residents and allocated by a proposed Capital Finance Commission instead of the federal government.

Various other amendments were also proposed to devolve several functions of the Municipal Corporation of Islamabad (MCI) to the union councils.

“We discussed various proposed amendments to make the local government vibrant and functional to resolve issues of the citizens,” Ali Nawaz Awan told Dawn. He said changes would be made to the law so that the mayor should be elected through direct elections. There should also be system of neighbourhood and village councils.

Another official said changes to the Act were not being made to target the incumbent mayor.

“We are proposing the changes for a better service delivery,” he claimed.

When the PTI was in the opposition, MNA Asad Umar had also proposed changes to the law but the party could not get them pass from parliament.

Through a legislative bill, Mr Umar during his previous tenure had called for devolution of several of the MCI functions to union councils, including the removal of encroachments, signboards, water supply, solid waste collection, ground maintenance, open spaces and streetlights. He had also proposed that the union councils should also be authorised to collect approved taxes and fees.

The local government in Islamabad was formed after elections in Nov 2015 but the MCI still does not have a budget.

The bill moved by Mr Umar had also proposed changes, including amending Section 82 of the Act, which is related to the budget. It currently states that the annual local government budget will contain estimates of grants from the government, funds available locally, receipts for next year and expenditure to be incurred for the next year.

However, the bill also proposed that “the total tax collected by FBR under the Islamabad Capital Territory (Tax on Services) Ordinance 2001 along with the amendment 2016” be included in Section 82 of the Local Government Act.

The bill also called for an amendment to Section 89 for constitution of a Capital Finance Commission.

The existing section 89 states that taxes collected under the section would be distributed amongst the MCI and union councils as notified by the government. Under the amendment, the word ‘government’ would be replaced by the ‘Capital Finance Commission.’

The sources said participants of the meeting also discussed the bill and proposed changes along with new proposals. It was decided that before finalising the new bill more meetings would be held.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2019