BIGD-Sharique dissemination seminar
Speakers stressed on remedial measures to resolve shortcomings
of local government institutions
(From left to right) Melina Papageorgiou Trippolini, H.E. Christian Fotsch, Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Sultana Kamal
and Nasiruddin Ahmed at the seminar
At the local government, while a lot of functions have been given to the UP, these have not been complemented by adequate authority and capacity to raise local revenue to meet the financial need for discharging these functions. To resolve the gap, increasing revenues alone will not empower UPs to carry out effective public service delivery. This has to be matched with enhanced capacity for managing local revenues and engaging citizens in planning and budgeting development. Also, while there is interest among the political parties to increase the involvement of women and the interest of women and young girls in the local government level, various social norms and prejudices prevent them from joining. In addition, the culture and the ways of functioning of the parties are not women friendly. This gap needs to be addressed by the political parties to expand their membership, develop their younger members and ensure that women and girls are encouraged to join and develop their skills and leadership. The provision of safe spaces and culturally appropriate activities could help break the barriers and hesitations that women and their families have. Moreover, the officials of the service delivery departments of local government level are strongly accountable to their higher authority i.e. to their ministerial hierarchy above instead of being towards UZP elected body for their functions and activities. Although the departments are linked with UZP through Committees and other meetings, these linkages do not ensure any real transfer of power and authority to the UZP in terms of utilisation of departmental funds.
These findings and recommendations were shared from three qualitative action researches conducted under local governance programme Sharique III in its project areas on (i) Revenue Mobilisation in Union Parishads (ii) Women’s Representation in Union Parishads and (iii) State of Accountability of the Transferred Departments at the Upazila Parishad and its Consequences for Allocation and Utilisation of Resources: A Study of three Departments, in a seminar organised by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University, in cooperation with HELVETAS Swiss Inter cooperation (HSI) and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) on July 30, 2016 at Dhaka with the aim to actively engage in the national debate on decentralisation issues.
The seminar began with opening remarks from Ms. Melina Papageorgiou Trippolini, Programme Manager of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Afterwards, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD, delivered the first presentation of the study titled “Public Finance and Revenue Mobilisation in the Union Parishad.” This study aimed to analyse the system, processes and citizens’ participation in local revenue collection. It looked into UPs’ current status and capacity in revenue mobilisation and assessed the influence of citizens’ participation on local development planning and budgeting. While a lot of functions have been given to the UP, these have not been complemented by adequate authority and capacity to raise local revenue through means such as imposing taxes, assessment, collection etc. to meet the financial need for discharging these functions. The study recommended that increasing revenues alone will not empower UPs to carry out effective public service delivery. This has to be matched with enhanced capacity for managing local revenues and engaging citizens in planning and budgeting development. Following the presentation, Dr. Nasiruddin Ahmed, Commissioner, ACC shared his observations and view as a discussant.
Ms. Maheen Sultan (first from right) is seen delivering her presentation
Ms Maheen Sultan, Visiting Fellow of BIGD presented findings of the study titled “Women’s Representation in Union Parishads” in the second phase of the seminar which was moderated by Ms. Simeen Mahmud, Lead Researcher of Gender and Social Transformation Cluster, BIGD. The study found that most of the female members had not been directly involved in politics before elections and most of them did not have a clear idea about what it would mean to be a public representative. Another interesting finding of the study was that women UP members preferred to contest for reserved seats because they would then not have to compete against men, thus reducing competition and reducing election expenses. Political parties and citizens also favour voting for women in reserved seats. However, once elected, the women on reserved seats felt at a disadvantage compared to men in general seats because they felt they did not have access resources to distribute to voters or projects to implement, in proportion to their constituency (three wards). Additionally, the study revealed that many women who have been elected once do not seek re-election a second time contrary to the common hope that they would in fact want to contest for general seats in a second round.
Followed by the presentation, Dr. Maleka Banu, General Secretary, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad; and Dr. Badiul Alam Mazumder, Secretary, SUJAN discussed on the paper. Views and suggestions were also collected from UP reserved seat Members.
The thirds phase of the seminar hosted a presentation by Dr. Mirza M. Hassan, Adjunct Fellow, BIGD on the study titled “State of Accountability of the Transferred Departments at the Upazila Parishad and its Consequences for Allocation and Utilisation of Resources: A Study of three Departments.” Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman moderated the session and an interactive discussion followed by the presentation.
The study assessed the de jure and precisely de facto nature of accountability relations between officials of the transferred departments (service delivery departments) and elected representatives of the Upazila Parishad (UZP). It also examined the implications of such relationships on the process of resource allocation and utilisation at the local level. The study has revealed that officials of the transferred departments are strongly accountable to their higher authority i.e. to their ministerial hierarchy above. The study shows that mechanisms for such type of accountability do not exist between UZP elected body and the officials of the transferred departments. Also, the transferred officials have very little incentive to be answerable to the UZP for their functions and activities. The study also observed that although the transferred departments are linked with UZP through Committees and other meetings, these linkages do not ensure any real transfer of power and authority to the UZP in terms of utilisation of departmental funds. In practice, the transferred departments continue to be accountable to their respective ministries and follow their rules and regulations.
Prof. Akhter Hussain , University of Dhaka discussed on the paper. Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman moderated an interactive discussion followed by the presentation.
H.E. Christian Fotsch, Ambassador of Switzerland , as Special Guest also spoke at the event. In her speech, Chief Guest of the programme, Advocate Sultana Kamal urged all to be vocal about the local government reform issues. Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman delivered the concluding remarks and vote of thanks.
Among others, local government experts, representatives from government institutions, academicians, researchers, journalists, development practitioners as well as elected representatives from Sharique project areas also attended the event.
Click below the links to see the wide media coverage, and the research briefs of the research studies shared at the event.