Formation of local govt commission, audit directorate for local bodies stressed , The Financial Express, February 27, 2013

Speakers at a seminar on Tuesday emphasised on formation of an independent directorate in the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (OCAG) to ensure regular auditing for local government bodies.

They also advocated for introducing Local Government Commission to make the elected representatives in the local government bodies – Union Parishad (UP), Upazila Parishad (UzP) and Pourashava accountable to the people about their activities.

The key recommendations came after a study found that most of the elected members of the local government bodies do not have any workable knowledge about role of accountability in the financial management.

Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) arranged the seminar to share its study findings on Local Government Accountability and Audit System at Bangladesh Institute of International Strategic Studies (BIISS) in the capital on the day.

BEI president Farooq Sobhan presided over the function where minister for the Ministry of Information Hasanul Haq Inu was present as the chief guest.

Showing a PowerPoint presentation, BEI vice-president M Humayun Kabir said the study found the required internal accountability components like ward committee, standing committee, citizens’ charter and account management of the local government were formed but do not function properly.

“Minutes or resolutions of the meetings of the local government bodies in most cases are not recorded and forwarded to UNO (Upazila Nirbahi Officer) as prescribed by law,” he said, adding that 90 per cent of the elected representatives are not fully aware of the role of accountability in the financial management in the local government bodies.

About monitoring system, Mr Kabir, also the lead researcher of the study, said the government officials from division or district levels pay visit to the UPs but not as frequently as they are supposed to.

He said sixty-five per cent of the respondents of UP reported to have no audit observations while around 4 per cent said they had 1-5 pending audit observations.

“Interestingly, 31 per cent of them said they had no knowledge about the important issue,” he said, adding that the study covered 14 UPs, 7 UzPs and 7 Pourashavas all over the country.

Information minister Hasanul Haq Inu said the fundamental things like accountability, transparency, participation in the decision making and regular auditing make an institution democratic.

The Information Minister said there are specific directives in articles 59 and 60 of the Constitution regarding the local government. “But the country’s existing laws about the issue are not incompliant with the articles. In some cases, it is incomplete and contradictory,” he said.

He said the main challenges are to develop an effective disclosure system and social audit system in accordance with the articles. “So, my suggestion is to go with formation of local government commission and audit directorate for local government,” he said.

A comprehensive law is needed where there will be a code of conduct to specify the roles of lawmakers, government officials and elected representatives in the LG bodies. “The parliamentarians and the politicians should come forwards in this connection,” he said.

He was also critical over section 25 of the Local Government (Upazila Parishad) Act, saying that the provision forced the local government councilor to execute the lawmaker’s advice. “Transparency and accountability cannot be ensured at the LG bodies by formulating such laws,” he added.

General Secretary of Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujan) Badiul Alam Majumdar termed ‘ward shava or open meeting’ one of the most unique mechanisms to make LG bodies more effective.

“Such meeting should be held twice a year as per the law, but most of the LG bodies ignored it. It also helps not only identify the priorities, but also initiate many social campaigns in the localities,” he added.

Speaking as special guest, local government division’s secretary Abu Alam Md. Shahid Khan said mayor or chairman remains busy with Salish (arbitration through local leaders), politics and business.

“How many days, they (the elected representatives) are going to their offices. Most of them are moving around the capital for lobbying or asking favour,” he said.

He added that the overall system in the LG bodies should be streamlined to make the institutions effective and accountable to the common people.

Md. Moahar Hossain, controller general of defence finance, mentioned the limited manpower of the audit department, saying that the local government size in terms of manpower increased by 17 per cent while audit department by only 2 per cent a year.

“That’s why they cannot afford to go to all local government units. They should go to the selected audits,” he added.

Source: http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/index.php?ref=MjBfMDJfMjdfMTNfMV84OV8xNjE0Mzc=

27 February, 2013