SHARIQUE National Seminar
on Social Accountability Mechanisms in the Union Parishad held
Ward Shobhas inoperative, Suggestions of MPs turned into directives, Speakers say

Distinguished Guests at the National Seminar on Social Accountability Mechanisms, held on May 30, 2015

Provision of Ward Shobha, twice in a year, promulgated in the Local Governance Act (UP) 2009, to ensure social accountability of Union Parishad through participation of men-women and poor in its activities and improving the quality of its service, the programme couldn’t be successful all across the country, Experts said in a National Seminar titled Social Accountability Mechanisms in the Union Parishads on May 30, 2015, jointly organized by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, Bangladesh.

Presided over by Barrister Manzoor Hasan, Executive Director, South Asian Institute of Advanced Legal and Human Rights Studies (SAILS) and Institutional Advisor, BIGD Mr. Ashok Madhab Roy, Additional Secretary, Local Government Division, attended the event as the Chief Guest. Dr. Tofail Ahmed, Visiting Fellow, BIGD presented the keynote speech based on a study.

Mr. Nazrul Islam of UNDP and Mr. Arif H. Khan of Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) have also made two separate presentations on Union Parishad Governance Project (UPGP) and CARTA respectively.

Dr. Salauddin M. Aminuzzaman, Professor, University of Dhaka and Dr. Mirza M. Hassan, Adjunct Fellow, BIGD discussed on the presentations.

In his keynote presentation, Dr. Tofail Ahmed, the reputed Local Government Expert highlighted the research findings which shows, currently the Ward Shobhas lack of agendas, proceedings of meetings and proper conforming of the regulations; reflection of demands of members in the Shobhas and serious violations of rules in some places i.e inactivity of the Standing Committees, poor tax assessment, updated RTI etc . He also added, no open budgets are being made following the instructions and the budget lacks proper planning. Among others, the findings include scarcity of skilled workforces of the UPs, inadequate allowances considering many informal public interactions of UP representatives and daily dispute reconciliations alongside all the responsibilities.

Earlier, Lilia Tverdun, Director, Local Governance Programme Sharique made the introductory remarks and welcomed the distinguished guests and participants which includes, Experts, Academics, Activists, UP representatives from Pabna, Sunamganj, Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Khulna, and representatives from public and private organizations, different INGOs, NGOs, Donor Agenices and Media.

Mr. Ashok Madhab Roy stressed on the interaction and relation improvement between the people and the representatives; increasing public awareness about the duties and responsibilities of UPs, enhancing the revenue of the UPs to strengthen local governments income and make the Ward Shobhas more operative. He said people skip Wardshobhas as their demands are not attended plentifully, and the housewives avoid the Shobhas as they consider the Shovas should be attended by their Husbands. He also suggested the UP Chairmen to raise their objections in the Upazila Parishads meetings as active members. In reply to the question on excessive number of committees at UPs, he said most of the committees are formed considering social safety net issues and it is not necessary to organize meetings of all the committees every month.

Participants, UP Representatives and guests at the event

Professor Salahuddin M Aminuzzaman urged to plan and make decisions through analyzing the economic and political condition of the rural areas. He said UPs are overweighed by number of committees. He suggested keeping 5-6 committees instead of 28. He added, it’s impossible for one secretary to look after all the duties and responsibilities of UP.

Dr. Mirza Hasan said social accountability mechanism will work as a defensive tool in today’s severe crisis of political democracy. He urged to free local government from partyarchy as UP representatives are forced to maintain dual accountability as apart from people, they also have to abide by particular political party. He asked for a justifying socio-economic system following these research findings.

Later, an open discussion on Policy Briefs, based on study was moderated by Maheen Sultan, Advocacy Specialist, BIGD where peoples representatives asked to cancel the regulation which instructs to follow the suggestions of the Member of Parliaments (MPs), as the suggestions arrive in the form of orders, according to the representatives. They mentioned it as a significant constraint similar to political interference and bureaucratic impediments.

The event concluded by the closing remarks of Ms. Melina Papageorgiou Trippolini, Programme Manager, Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh.    

The event was attended by among others, representatives and experts from Local Government Division (LGD), NILG, BRDB, JICA, BRAC & BRAC International, TIB, NGO Forum, Save the Children, Care Bangladesh, Water Aid Bangladesh MDF, Democracy International, Nagorik Udyog, BLAST CARITAS Development Institute, VOICE, PRIP-TRUST, IUCN, , Democracy Watch, Save the Environment Movement, CDC.

The seminar was organised as part of Sharique-III programme which is a Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) funded Local Governance Programme mandated to the consortium of HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation (HSI) and BIGD, BRAC University.

The Event was widely covered by the media. Please click below the links:

The Daily Prothom Alo

The Financial Express

The New Nation: Page-4

Dainik Amader Shomoy

The Daily Shokaler Khobor

The Daily Star

The Daily Naya Diganta

The Daily Sangbad

 

Prepared by BIGD Newsroom 09.06.2015

---------------------------