DAWN, ISLAMABAD, 09th OCTOBER 2013: Although stark dissimilarities characterise the legal frameworks governing rules for holding local government elections in the four provinces, they have one thing in common — provisions to keep the local bodies under the thumb of the provincial governments.
Powers to suspend mayors, nazims and chairmen of local bodies and their deputies, the procedures for funds distribution among them and the authority to bifurcate or merge them are some of the factors that may be used by the provincial governments in this regard.
Under Section 93 of the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013, if the provincial government ‘after such inquiry as may be necessary’ is of the opinion that a council is persistently failing in discharging its duties or is unable to administer its affairs or meet its financial obligations despite directives, or is otherwise abusing its powers, it may declare the council to be superseded for up to six months. The mayor, deputy mayor, chairman, vice chairman or member shall cease to hold the office on publication of the notification and the functions of the council during the period will be performed by a person or authority appointed by the government.
All the funds and property of the council during the period will vest in the government. By the expiry of the period, the council will be reconstituted.
The law is silent on the procedure for inquiry as well as the manner in which the reconstitution of the council is to take place.
Under another section, the government, on its own motion or on an application made to it by any person, may appoint an officer or authority to hold an inquiry into the affairs of a council generally, or into any particular matter, and take remedial measures.
The officer appointed for the purpose will have the powers of a civil court to gather evidence and ensure attendance of witnesses and submission of documents.
On the basis of such an inquiry, if the government is satisfied that a council is unable to run a department or institution, it may suspend the authority of the council over the department or institution. During the suspension the government would be empowered to take over the management of such an institution or make other arrangements. The government will determine the expenses of management which will be borne by the council.
Under Section 9 of the act, the provincial government also enjoys the powers to divide a council into two or more councils, reconstitute two or more councils as one council or alter the limits of a council.
PUNJAB: Under the Punjab Local Government Act, a provincial local government commission, headed by the Minister for Local Government and comprising three members of the provincial assembly, two technocrats and the secretary concerned, will be appointed to conduct annual and special inspections of the local governments and submit reports to the provincial government. The commission will have the powers to conduct performance audit of the local governments and its decision will be binding on the local governments.
On recommendation of the commission, the government may suspend a mayor or chairman for up to 90 days to prevent him from continuing with any unlawful activity during an inquiry.
On the basis of an inquiry, the government has the powers to remove a mayor, deputy mayor, chairman or deputy chairman.
A provincial finance commission will be set up to recommend a formula for resources’ distribution among the local governments. The finance minister will be its chairman while the local government minister will serve as co-chairman.
The commission will take into account the principles of population, backwardness, need and performance of the local governments.
The provincial government has retained the right to give grant in aid to any local government.
BALOCHISTAN: The Balochistan government, under Section 31 of the Local Government Act of 2010, can remove a mayor, deputy mayor, chairman, deputy chairman or member of a local government on the charge of misconduct. The removals will be preceded by an opportunity of hearing, but the procedure and authority in this regard has not been mentioned.
Those removed may file review petitions with the provincial government within 30 days.
KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA: The draft Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act appears to have copied the Punjab model for setting up a local government commission, with a minor change in its composition. The commission, on its own initiative or on directives of the chief minister, will conduct an inquiry either itself or through the district government into any matter concerning a local government, the act says.
If, in the opinion of the chief minister, a nazim is deliberately avoiding directives given to him in the public interest, he may, for reasons to be recorded and conveyed in writing, suspend him for up to 30 days and refer the matter to the commission for inquiry.
The commission will give an opportunity of personal hearing to the nazim and submit its report and recommendation, which may include removal of the nazim, to the chief minister. In case no decision is taken within 30 days, the nazim shall stand re-instated.