Local Governance in Peril: Context and Way Forward

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Local governance in Peril: Context and way forward

Nepal is passing through a protracted transition. The constituent assembly that was mandated to deliver the constitution ceased to exist on the midnight of May 28. Seven months have passed, there are no sincere efforts on the part of the political parties to forge consensus to hold fresh election for CA or revive the erstwhile/defunct constituent assembly. In the wake of the ever growing political crises, the president as the patronage of the nation has extended several deadlines to forge the consensus among the political parties to give a way out of the political and constitutional void. To the most chagrin, the ruling coalition government and the opposition have utterly failed to forge consensus citing several reasons. What is more disheartening is that the hopes and aspiration of the people are gradually fading away as there seems to be no end of the existing political upheaval which is the making of the political parties and their leaders.

Needles to mention, the country was rattled by the decade long armed struggle between the former rebels and the state. During the conflict, over 13,000 people lost their lives and thousands of people were rendered homeless. At local level, the impact was more severe as people were killed, tormented and disappeared by warring parties- both state and non state- under various alibis. The government authorities were intimated and forced to move to district headquarters to safeguard their lives leaving the local based government institution in lurch. With the signing of the comprehensive peace accord, the conflict has finally come to an end in 2006 striving towards the sign of prosperity, just and equitable society. Since then, the successive coalition government has vowed to conduct the local election and consolidate the local democracy thereby improving the service delivery at the grassroots.

At the local level, there are no elected representatives since last election. In the absence of elected representatives, the issues related with abuse of power and authority, financial embezzlement is on the rise. Such activities have taken heavy toll on the overall development of VDCs with no sign of ebbing. There are credible reports about VDCs secretaries in collaboration with local parties allegedly maneuvering the documents to pocket the fund allocated for the development of the concern VDC.  Last month in Siraha district of Eastern Nepal, the local people raised a serious concern and demanded a strong action against some VDCs secretaries who were accused of pocketing the fund allocated for development activities. According to some national dailies, a school principal was allegedly involved in financial embezzlement in the name of renovation of community owned school in Kavre district of Nepal. Likewise, there are also news related with misuse of social security provided by the government to the senior citizens. These incidents are just tip of the icebergs. There are number of cases related with abuse of power and authority at the local level that goes unreported and unchecked. The scenario will remain unchanged if government does not exhibit its sincerity to hold local election and elected representatives are put in place. Though the country is in the transition process and election to CA occupies the centre stage, the local election is the only solution that can end all exiting malicious at the local level and improve the service delivery.   

Way forward:

 The perilous status of local governance has remained a long impending issue in the political domain of the country. It has impeded the service delivery at the grassroots putting the local democracy at stake. Political parties and their leaders are wrangling over trivial issues while the issues related with local governance have been overlooked in one pretext or the other. The policy makers and other concern stakeholders should realize that vibrant local governance is cardinal to consolidate local democracy and improve the service delivery at the grassroots. However, this is only possible when following key issues are taken into an account.

As mentioned in the preceding paragraph, the immediate conduction of local governance election to promote accountable is need of the times. It is also important to forge strong network of demand side and supply side to avoid duplications. Furthermore, participatory planning has to be strengthened with greater involvement of citizen especially those belonging to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. The capacity development activities have to be tuned with the requirements of demand and supply side. There is also need to institutionalize the people based organizations such as WCFs and IPFC that will engage people in the planning and budgeting process. Likewise, social mobilization should reach out to the people belonging to downtrodden groups. The performance based grant system has to be linked with MCPM while allocating the grant at the local level. The public audit and public hearing system has to be strengthened with greater citizen engagement and oversight in place. Finally, there is also need to institutionalize the strong compliance mechanism in all local governance activities.  

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