LAHORE  -   A distinctive feature of the new local government system is the establishment of joint authorities by two or more local governments for efficient discharge of functions by pooling the resources at their disposal.  

This new concept of resource sharing by the local governments aims at effective delivery of services to the people through mutual cooperation and efforts never practiced before in Punjab. 

Section-30 of the Punjab Local Government Act deals with this subject. Under this arrangement, two or more local governments may establish a joint authority through a written agreement to share the funds, staff, facilities, equipment, stores or any other paraphernalia required for discharge of any public service.

If, for example, a local government is understaffed and lacking in amenities or machinery, it may hire these services from any of the neighbouring local governments by entering into a written agreement. Likewise, the second party to this agreement may require the first party to provide it certain services not available with it. 

The agreement will also provide for arrangements for sharing of the expenses of the joint authority between the constituting local governments. This authority shall be responsible to each constituting local government for the provision of public serves assigned to it.

Any local government can rescind from the agreement after due notice of not less than three months to the other constituting local government.

Also, under section-32 of the Punjab Local Government Act, the Punjab Government will also have the power to establish joint authorities for the local governments for provision of certain public serves. This provision has been made in the law in the interest of economy of efforts and effectiveness.

All joint authorities shall have an Operating Officer who shall be responsible for proper administration and discharge of responsibilities assigned to the authority. The constituting local governments shall appoint the Operating Officer form amongst their officers with mutual consent. In case of any disagreement, Punjab Government shall appoint the Operating Officer after thirty days.

The local governments entering into such agreement may also appoint joint committees to oversee and direct the proper discharge of functions by a joint authority. They will also determine the total membership, representation and term of office of the members who may be taken from amongst the councilors or officers of the local government. The expenses incurred by a joint authority shall be defrayed by the constituting local governments as mutually agreed upon. In case of any dispute between them on their respective proportions of expenses, an arbiter appointed through mutual agreement will determine the amounts to be paid by them. If the disagreement still persists, it shall be determined by an officer authorized by the Punjab Government.  

In relation to the working of joint authorities, the local governments will make arrangements for temporary transfer of officers to the joint authority; and the use of any facility, amenity, vehicle and equipment etc for provision of a public service. The local governments will be the joint owners of such facilities and equipment. Upon dissolution of a joint authority, its assets, funds and other paraphernalia will be succeeded by the local governments in proportion to their respective shares. Any disagreement between the parties will be settled an arbiter or an officer authorized by the provincial government.

It would be interesting to watch the functioning of joint authorities since such an arrangement has not been practiced before in Punjab. Its success will hinge upon the leadership of new local governments and provincial government’s will to ensure delivery of services at the gross-root level.