Democratic Local Governance Program

Strengthening Local Governance in Bangladesh: Issues and Agenda for Reforms and Reorganization
Professor Dr. Salahuddin Aminuzzaman
Department of Public Administration
University of Dhaka
History of local government in Bangladesh has a long tradition and legacy. However, the experiences over the years indicate a greater level of "pessimism" about the role and potential of local government system, with particular reference to rural and small town urban local government system. An objective assessment would reveal that none of the political regime gave due importance to the local government system. Though two reform commission namely Local Government Structure Review Commission 1993, Local Government Commission 1997, and a Committee for Recommendation of Financial Powers and Sources of Financing LG Institution 1999 were set by the political regime, but unfortunately no substantive reform or meaningful changes took place in the role, structure and, management of the LG in Bangladesh. Ironically most the substantive changes and reforms of LG system took place during the martial law regimes and or period of authoritarian rule.

Bangladesh at present in cross road to wards her journey to democracy. Let us all move forward and collectively demand some meaningful and substantive reform to develop the LG system and strengthen the root of democracy in Bangladesh.

Major Issues of Local Government Reform in Bangladesh
Setting the tiers right
Upazila and Union Parishad provide both the proximity to citizens - government close to the people-and offer the appropriate size for scale efficiencies to be captured in the delivery of rural services. A third tier above the Upazila, at the district level, therefore needs to be reviewed critically. Too many tiers could also create functional and jurisdictional conflict.
Review of Reserved, Transferred and Residual Functions
Time has come for the government to review the range of functions being carried out by the national and local government. There should be a critical and objective assessment of the existing three categories (Reserved, Transferred and Residual) functional allocations between the national and local government.
Intergovernmental fiscal transfer policy
There should be a clear inter-governmental fiscal transfer policy for diving resources among tiers eliminating uncertainty and scope for political manipulation.
Permanent Local Government Finance Commission.
In order to ensure objective distribution and allocation of national government allocation to the LG bodies, there should be a permanent Local Government Finance Commission. The Commission will also look after auditing and financial monitoring system of the LGs.
Taming the Political Actors
The Members of Parliament (MPs) must not be involved in any manner with the affairs of the LG units because this violates the Principle of Separation of Power.
Constitutional and Regulatory reforms
icon Take measures for enactment of laws and if necessary amend the constitutional provision of having local governments at all tiers of administration.
icon Selected sections of the Local Government Ordinances/Act related to UP/ PS / Upazila / Zila Parshads with particular emphasis to accountability, responsibility, transparency, relationship with the central bureaucracy, rule making, and management and supervision should immediately be reviewed and amended. Local Government Legal framework must make provision to ensure transparency and social auditing and accountability.
icon Formulate an Integrated LG legislature covering all levels of Local Government to get an complementary relationship between and among the levels of local bodies.
icon The LG Act should provided legal authority to supervise and monitor the activities of NGOs and other development actors operating within their territorial jurisdictions.
icon Development of procedural, legal and financial systems/ incentives to encourage the private sector to further involve in local level development. Make provision to allow the Local Governments to generate funds from external sources through negotiations and designing fund worthy projects.
Capacity building
Reorganization and building capacities of the national training institutes like NILG, BARD and RDA should be initiated to cater the demand side of the capacity.
Strengthening Local Government Association/ Forum
Efforts should be made to establish leadership forum for the local government elected representatives to serve as a platform for exchange and sharing of information regarding development and other activities impacting on the community and bilateral negotiation with the central government. The forum, in the long run, could also provide capacity building support as well.