LAHORE - The Punjab government on Friday presented the new Local Government bill before the Punjab Assembly which is likely to be passed by the provincial legislature during the ongoing session.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sana Ullah introduced the bill and the Acting Speaker Sher Ali Gorchani referred it to the Special Committee of the House to make recommendations within four days. The Assembly would start discussion on the bill from Monday.

The proposed law envisages establishment of Municipal Corporations for cities and District Councils for the rural areas to perform functions of local governments. The provincial capital Lahore would have a Metropolitan Corporation instead of Municipal Corporation. Municipal Committees in cities and Union Councils in rural areas would form second tier of the local governments.

The Corporations would be headed by Mayors and Deputy Mayors whereas the District Councils would be headed by Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen.

The members of the Corporations and District Councils would be elected directly by the people while the Mayors, Deputy Mayors, Chairmen and the Vice-chairmen would be elected indirectly by the elected members.

The District Councils shall comprise chairmen of all the union councils in a district and the Municipal Corporations would also have directly elected members.

In the proposed legislation, there are several checks on the powers of the Mayors and the Chairmen who have been virtually made subservient to the provincial government.

Though under section 65 of the draft bill, the executive authority of a local government shall vest and be exercised by its Mayor or Chairman, they may be rendered powerless any time by the provincial government under sub-section (3) of same section. It states:

“The government may, on the recommendations of the Punjab Local Government Commission delegate any function of a Mayor or a Chairman to a Deputy Mayor or a Vice-Chairman subject to such conditions as may be prescribed in the notification”.

A provision has also been made in the law to have checks on powers of the Mayors and Chairmen through appointment of Chief Officers

Though the Chief Officer appointed by the provincial government, is supposed to work under the supervision of the Mayor and the Chairman District Council, he/she would be answerable to the provincial government. The chief officer would also act as Principal Drawing and Disbursing Officer, a function now being performed by the DCOs.

In this way, government through its chief officers would be responsible for financial irregularities or embezzlement, if any, in the local governments.

Apart from this, in section 66, under the title of ‘Additional Functions’, it has been clearly stated that a local government shall be bound by the directions of the provincial government in the performance of its functions.

For the delivery of health and education facilities at the local level, the bill also envisages establishment of district health and education authorities that would be established by Punjab government which would also determine their composition. They would be out of the purview of the local governments. The technocrat members of these authorities shall be appointed by the provincial government.

The chairmen and chief executive officers of these authorities would be personally responsible to promote the objectives of these bodies. They would be answerable only to the Punjab government.

Under section- 7, the provincial government would have the power to divide any local government into two or more local governments or reconstitute two or more local governments as one local government.

In case of any ambiguity as to functions of the local governments, the provincial government would have the final say.

Section- 5 states: “Where the Act makes any provision for anything to be done, but has not made any provision or any sufficient provision as to the authority by whom, or the manner in which it shall be done ,then it shall be done by such authority and in such a manner as may be prescribed”.

Earlier, during the question hour, Education Minister Rana Mashhood told the House that government would impose education emergency from August 14 to ensure enrolment of children from four to nine years of age.  He also informed the House that government would recruit some 21,000 new school teachers this year.