KARACHI - The draft for Sindh Local Government Act, 2013, proposes strict measures for making Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and district councils, their mayors and chairmen more accountable to the Sindh government, led by Pakistan People’s Party.
Comprising seventeen chapters over 113 pages, the new law is an amalgamation of the Local Government Ordinance, 1979, and Local Government System, 2001, of general Musharraf-led government and empowers more powers to Karachi Metropolitan Corporation than district councils.
All tiers of local governments, from Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, district councils, district municipal corporations, town municipal corporation, town municipal committee to union councils, The has made more accountable to the provincial government.
The proposed act, a copy of which is available with The Nation, empowers the chief minister to remove any mayor, chairman of any council, if he\she found violating the laws under this act.
Under the Section 88, the Sindh government may direct any council, or any person or authority responsible there to take within such period as may be specified such action as may be necessary for carrying out the purposes of this Act.
Where after due enquiry, the government is satisfied that any direction made under sub-section (1) has not been complied with, it may appoint a person or persons to give effect to such direction, and may further direct that the expenses incurred in connection therewith shall be a charge on the local fund and borne by the council.
In the chapter IX, the government has made the provision of supervision of the councils through which the government shall exercise general supervision and control over the councils to ensure that their activities conform to the purposes and provisions of this act.
Under the Section 90 relating to inspection of councils, the working of the councils shall be inspected at least once in a financial year by an inspecting officer or inspection team appointed by the government as may be prescribed.
The mayor or chairman as the case may be shall take such action on the inspection report as may be required. If there is any dispute or difference of opinion between the Inspecting officer and the council, such dispute or matter shall be decided by the government.
Under the Section 91 of proposed law, which relates the inquiry into affairs of the councils, the government may, on its own motion or on an application made to it by any person, cause an enquiry to be made by such officer or authority as may be appointed by it in this behalf, into the affairs of a council generally, or into any particular matter concerning that council, and take such remedial measures as may be warranted by the findings of such enquiry.
Such officer shall, for the purposes of the enquiry, have the powers of a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (Act V of 1908), to take evidence and to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents.
Under the Section 92 of the proposed law, which relates suspension of particular department or institution, if after such enquiry as may be necessary, the government is satisfied that council is not able to run a particular department or institution properly and efficiently, it may, after recording reasons, by notification in the official gazette, suspend the authority of the council over such department or institution for such period as may be specified in the order.
Where the authority of a council is suspended under sub-section (1) Government may itself take over the management of such department or institution or make such other arrangements as it thinks fit.
Under the Section 93 which is regarding supersession of councils, if, after such enquiry as may be necessary, the government is of the opinion that a council persistently fails in discharging its duties; or is unable to administer its affairs or meet its financial obligations despite directions by the government; or otherwise abuses its power.
Even, after considering the objections from the council, and after recording reasons, by notification in the official gazette, Sindh government can declare the council to be superseded for a period not exceeding six months.
On the publication of a notification under sub section (1)-(a) the person holding the office of the mayor, deputy mayor, chairman or vice-chairman or member shall cease to hold such office, (b) the functions of the council shall during the period of supersession be performed by such person or authority as is appointed by the government until the council reconstituted under sub-section (3) assumes office.
Under the section of the same chapter, all funds and property of the council shall, during the period of supersession, vest in government for the purposes of this act and be expended accordingly.
The PPP government in its proposed draft law has retained chapter of provincial finance commission, which was part of the general Musharraf’s local government system of 2001, however the Sindh government has given more powers to the commission to check the finances and expenditures of metropolitan, district, municipal, town and union councils. The finance commission can hold audit of the accounts of every council shall be audited in such manner, after such intervals and by such authority, as provided under any law or as prescribed. The audit authority shall have access to all books, records and other documents pertaining to accounts and may also examine the mayor, deputy mayor, chairman, or vice-chairman, or any member or employees of the council.
The functions of the provincial local government commission shall be to conduct annual and special inspections of the councils and submit reports to the chief minister Sindh; to conduct, on its own initiative or, whenever, so directed by the chief minister Sindh, an inquiry by itself or through council into any matter concerning a council; on its own initiative or, whenever, so directed by the chief minister Sindh, a special audit by itself or direct a council to arrange a special audit, and to resolve disputes between any department of government of Sindh and council or between two councils.
In the law, it has been provided that if the local government commission fails to settle the disputes, the aggrieved party may move the chief minister Sindh for resolution thereof, and enquire into the matters referred to it by the chief officer under the provisions of this act and give its decision thereon or, as the case may be, make report to the competent authority/chief minister Sindh an annual report on the overall performance of the council.
The local government commission to take cognizance of violations of laws and rules by a council in performance of its functions, organise consultative planning meetings of national and provincial legislators, mayors, deputy mayors, chairmen and vice chairmen of district, taluka or union councils of a district on a periodic basis to provide their participation in development activities of the district.
Where the provincial local government commission is of opinion that suspension of a mayor is necessary for the fair conduct of any enquiry under this act or preventing the mayor or chairman of district council from continuing with any unlawful activity during the pendency of enquiry, it may recommend to the chief minister Sindh for making appropriate order for suspension of such mayor or chairman of district council for a maximum period of ninety days.
Where, on any enquiry under this act, a mayor, deputy mayor, chairman, vice chairman or a member of a council is found guilty or misconduct by the provincial local government commission, it shall recommend appropriate action, to the chief minister Sindh.
According to the draft local government law, the provincial local government commission shall have the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedures, 1908 (Act V of 1908), in respect of the following matters, namely summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath, compelling the production of documents, receiving evidence on affidavits issuing commission for the examination of witnesses.