State of Accountability of the Transferred Departments at the Upazila Parishad and Its Consequences for Allocations and Utilizations of Resources: A Study of Three Departments

In recent years, elected representatives of the Upazila Parishad (UZP) are struggling to hold the transferred department officials accountable to them. As a part of the Sharique Local Governance Project, we studied the existing state of accountability relations between the elected representatives of UZP and the officials of transferred departments. It was found that neither any de-facto accountability mechanism exists between the elected bodies of UZP and the officials of the transferred departments, nor the latter are willing to be answerable to the former for their functions and activities. However, an informal coordination relationship has been found between UZP and the studied departments.

Researchers: Dr Mirza M. Hassan; Farhana Razzaque; Md. Bayazid Hasan; Muhammad Ashikur Rahman

Partners: SDC

Timeline: 2016

Status: Completed

Contact: Dr Mirza M. Hassan;


At the UZP level in Bangladesh, public representatives and service-providing departments of different ministries work together under a coordinated system in order to deliver better services to the citizens. The elected bodies of UZP are formally responsible for overseeing and coordinating the activities of the UZP, including the seventeen service provider departments based at the UZP level, which have been transferred under its jurisdictions. Also known as the transferred departments, the accountability mechanism between these departments and the UZP representatives has strong implications for resource allocations and consequently, service delivery. An investigation of the accountability relations between UZP and different transferred departments, therefore, can be highly beneficial to policy formation.


The objective of this study was to examine the supposed and existing nature of accountability relations between elected representatives of UZP and officials of the transferred departments and the implications of such relationships on the allocation and utilisation of resources at the UZP level.

This study is relevant to SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions), particularly to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.


The study was conducted in two UZPs and three transferred departments: Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), and Department of Livestock Services (DLS). We mainly applied qualitative techniques that included a literature review, in-depth key informant interviews (KIIs), document review, and consultation with academics, practitioners, and central government officials.

Findings and Recommendations

It was evident from our findings that the accountability relations between transferred departments and the elected representatives of UZP are largely ineffective and dysfunctional. Although “transferred,” these departments continue to be administratively linked to the central bureaucracy and their officials are also held accountable to their parent ministries. On the other hand, the system of top-down bureaucratic accountability is enforced on them by following well-developed accountability tools, such as Annual Confidential Report, Annual Performance Agreement, Project Evaluation Report, Monthly Activity Report, etc. Consequently, the transferred officials have to maintain dual accountability relationships.

It was found that the mode of application of laws related to the transfer of departments is characterised by vagueness and ambiguities. Close scrutiny of the Upazila Manual also shows that it lacks clarity regarding the nature of accountability linkages between the elected UZP representatives and the transferred officials. For instance, it does not specify how to coordinate, supervise, and monitor the transferred departments.

Apart from gaps and vagueness in the laws, there are several other factors which explain why accountability relations have remained dysfunctional. These include UZP elected representatives’ ignorance regarding transferred departments and authority over them; transferred officials’ ignorance regarding accountability rules; elected UZP representative’s lack of control over resources and use of ineffective tools to ensure accountability; etc. We have also found that the formal and informal interventions by the Members of Parliament (MPs) substantially affect the dynamics of accountability at the UZP. The advisory role of the MPs (as defined by the law) has created a broader space/opportunity for them to intervene in the process of fund allocations and distribution, which has reinforced the politics of patronage centring UZP governance.

Since the existence of a dual accountability structure is a major impediment for any decentralisation or devolution initiative, if the authority wishes to devolve power at the local level, it cannot be done in a partial manner. Some reform initiatives around the laws and procedures are also needed to establish accountability relations between UZP representatives and transferred officials. The roles of MPs in this regard should be eliminated. A proper initiative should be taken to make the provision for transferred departments to keep the elected representatives of UZP in the loop while sending their monthly reports to the higher authorities. And finally, Vice-Chairpersons (Chair of Committees) should be given signatory authority in monitoring reports of the departments and for overseeing the ongoing projects of the departments.