Need to restructure local bodies

The local self-governance system is an important aspect of democracy. The legally established local bodies work for the development of a region by seeking people’s participation in planning, operation and decision-making. It is expected that such bodies are equipped with adequate authority and are capable of undertaking people’s responsibilities, inspiring people-oriented development and delivering quick and efficient services. However, at present there is neither functional nor resource freedom for the local bodies in Nepal. The centre determines the roles and responsibilities, deploys its own staff and asks the local bodies to do prescribed duties. Likewise, the local bodies are not allowed to formulate their local need-specific jobs and do not reflect local diversity in terms of religion, caste, tribe, language, etc. Following the process of providing population-based budgetary expenditure has also led to widening the gap because the rural regions never get adequate attention.

Devolution of power means the local bodies will not be under the direct control of the centre; they are able to exercise their powers and perform public functions according to geographical boundaries specified by the Act; they enjoy corporate status and are free to collect and mobilise resources; and they will be operated by the elected representatives where local citizens will have definite access to decision-making and service-delivery.

Currently, in many VDCs and DDCs there are no secretaries and local development officers (LDOs). Even in those VDCs and DDCs where they are working, they have not been found to be motivated towards the cause of local development for various reasons, including their lack of legal knowledge, lack of conducive environment for development and lack of people’s faith in them. Experts, sociologists and economists have stre-ssed the need to reshuffle the current structure of the local bodies with the sole purpose of tailoring them to be able to deliver need-based services and development. While some have recommended the reduction in the number of the local bodies, others have called for a federal structure. But the bottom line is that ever-ybody feels the current stru-cture is no longer feasible. In the backdrop of current conflict, it has become imperative to address various voices being raised for effective devolution and redistribution of authority for truly self- governing units of local bodies. Therefore, proper restructuring of local bodies at this point of time will, essentially, go a long way in resolving some underlying causes of the current conflict as well.

At present, the country is waiting for local as well as general elections. And both the government and the opposition have been indicating that they would support a scientific restructuring of the local bodies. So, this is the right time to find out what sort of restructuring would be most appropriate so that the country can have scientific and efficient local bodies after the elections. Local bodies should not feel the financial constraints while formulating plans and implementing them. There should be an environment whereupon the local bodies can easily avail of necessary resources. In order to make appropriate restructuring, the government, civil society, local body associations and donors need to jointly work to suggest the final and appropriate method of restructuring.