PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has denied Rs43 billion funds meant for the development activities of local bodies in the outgoing fiscal, violating KP Local Government Act, 2013, according to official documents.
In the financial year 2019-20, the share of the local bodies in the development funds was Rs46 billion fixed by the Provincial Financial Commission (PFC) in view of the local bodies law.
However, the documents reveal, the provincial government released only Rs3 billion.
Sources in local government department told Dawn that owing to denial of the funds, new developmental scheme couldn’t be launched in the three tiers of local government system including district, tehsil and village and neighbourhood councils.
Section 53 of the KPLGA states: “In addition to the establishment charges budgeted for the devolved functions and transfers in lieu of Octroi and Zilla taxes, the development grant for local governments shall be so determined that it is not less than thirty percent of the total development budget of the province in the respective year.”
Minister says councils not in place after completion of tenure
The provincial share in the ADP for the outgoing financial year was Rs153 billion out of which PFC fixed the local bodies funds for development at Rs46 billion.
Sources said that the released Rs3 billion funds were purely meant for the important ongoing schemes and not for the new ones.
Minister for Finance Taimur Saleem Jhagra, when contacted, said that there were no elected local government representatives after completion of the tenure of the councils that was why funds were not released.
Asked about the government strategy regarding release of funds in the upcoming financial year as government delayed local bodies’ elections till April 2021, the minister said that funds of the local bodies would be released in the next financial year as he expressed the hope that elections would be held in next financial year commencing from July.
After completion of the tenure of the elected councils on August 28, 2019, the provincial government immediately delegated the powers of nazims and councils of the three tiers to the bureaucracy by amending the local government law.
Sources said that the powers of district councils were given to respective deputy commissioners (DCs), the powers of tehsil councils to tehsil municipal officer (TMOs) and that of village and neigbourhood council were awarded to the assistant directors (ADs) of local government.
After giving the powers of the councils to DCs, TMOs and ADs, they were authorised to utilise the funds for the ongoing development schemes and also launch new projects in the absence of the elected local government representatives.
Sources said that councils’ powers were given to the bureaucracy by the provincial government as it had no intention to hold fresh local bodies’ elections and it proved with the passing of time. They added despite lapse of 10 months after completion of the tenure of the local bodies, the elections were not in sight.
Section 219 of the Elections Act, 2017 stated that fresh polls should be held within 120 days after completion of the term of the existing local bodies, they said.
Commenting on denial of funds, a former district nazim said that it was violation of the spirit of the local bodies system. He said that it was unfortunate that no new development schemes could be launched in the outgoing financial year.
He demanded of the provincial government to conduct local government elections as soon as possible and release their share in the funds as per local government Act.
Besides denial of Rs43 billion for the outgoing financial year, the provincial government also deprived the local bodies of their Rs74 billion share in funds throughout their four-year tenure, which ended on August 28, in gross violation of the ruling PTI’s manifesto.
Data available with Dawn shows that under the Provincial Finance Commission (PFC), the four-year share of local bodies amounted to Rs144 billion. However, the finance department didn’t release Rs74 billion or over 50 per cent of the total amount allocated for local governments that adversely affected development activities at district, tehsil and village and neighbourhood level.
Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2020