LAHORE - A high level meeting held on Wednesday to discuss the issue of establishing a mini-secretariat at Multan remained inconclusive as it could evolve consensus only over transfer of some subjects of trivial nature to the proposed new setup at the southern Punjab.
Chaired by PML-N Senator Rafique Rajwana and attended by additional chief secretary, administrative secretaries and ministers, the meeting discussed various aspects of decentralization of provincial departments at the regional level.
Sources privy to the discussion disclosed that the participants could develop consensus only on establishing a separate Ombudsman office, posting of permanent Public Service Commission member and a permanent bench of Punjab Services Tribunal in Multan.
On the issue of decentralization of administrative departments, the parliamentarians proposed posting of Special Secretaries to head the departments like education, health, irrigation and C&W at the mini-secretariat with powers to transfer and post the officials up to grade 18, a power currently being exercised by the administrative secretaries.
It was also proposed that additional DGs, Additional IG, DPIs might be posted in the southern Punjab to redress the small issues for which the people have to travel to the provincial capital.
Some also proposed that instead of establishing a mini-secretariat, it would be better to delegate the administrative and financial powers at the divisional level and the commissioner should be declared ultimate authority in certain matters.
As the question of a separate province in the southern Punjab for the ruling PML-N is yet off the cards, senior bureaucrats think that other options like establishing a mini-secretariat in Multan with posting of special secretaries of big departments would not serve the purpose.
Though opinion is divided in the bureaucracy on formation of a mini-secretariat in southern Punjab, many believe that governance could only be improved if a full-fledged secretariat is established in the region. But the Government is not ready to set up a separate civil secretariat there as virtually it would be a step towards formation of a separate province.
“How a committee comprising dozens of parliamentarians and bureaucrats, who would never intend to leave the capital, would reach out to any consensus”, a senior official commented on the government’s initiative.
Another bureaucrat conditioning anonymity said that even establishment of a separate secretariat in the south Punjab would not lessen the peoples grievances in the remote areas. He opined that even if a separate administrative set up is placed in the southern region, it would not be of any help as the ultimate authority in most of the administrative matters was the chief minister. The chief secretary heading the mini-secretariat would have to forward the summaries to the provincial capital (Lahore) for approval. The upward and downward movement of files would further delay the delivery of services, he argued.
“Why the political setup is reluctant to activate local bodies system to empower local administration to address the local issues at the lower level”, he questioned.