No academic qualification proposed

MB Subba

In line with the government’s plan to trim the number of gewogs across the country, the Department of Local Governance (DLG) has also completed reviewing and amending the local government Act and submitted it to the government.

The DLG, however, has not proposed any academic qualification, one of the controversial and sensitive issues, for local leaders like gups, mangmis and thromde tshogpas.

DLG director Kado Zangpo said that more educated people were expected to contest the local government (LG) election as the posts become more attractive in terms of status and entitlement benefits. “If the gewog size become bigger the debate about academic qualifications will naturally come up,” he said.

The legislative committee of the National Assembly in the second Parliament session had proposed a minimum academic qualification of Class X for gups and mangmis. But the LG (amendment) Bill was deferred to the third session, which again was deferred to the fifth session.

The government wanted to invest time to make the Bill more comprehensive. It is expected to table the proposed amendments in the upcoming winter session.

However, even if the DLG has not proposed academic qualification, it will depend on Parliament whether or not to introduce academic qualifications for local leaders.

The proposed amendments, Kado Zangpo said, would also bring clarity on the roles of LG functionaries including that of the dzongdag, the Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) chairperson and gups. 

  “Petty and specific clauses in the existing Act have been removed to make the existing Act broader,” he said.

The proposed amendments, he said, would not only give more power to LGs but also streamline the reporting system for LGs. For instance, he said that the confusions about whether dzongkhag thromdes should report to the works and human settlement ministry or the home ministry have been streamlined.

The four dzongkhag thromdes today report to the works and human settlement ministry although LGs fall under the home ministry. “As per the proposed amendments, thromdes will report to the home ministry while they continue to receive technical support from the works and human settlement ministry,” he said.

Kado Zangpo said that the DLG has proposed amendments that would enhance coordination and communication between central agencies and local governments in view of “some disconnect” between the central government and local governments.

“We have also incorporated sections on how coordination between the central government and local governments should take place. It’s the central government that is ultimately accountable although local governments have their own roles and powers,” he said.

The government feels there are barriers in the Act that impedes the central government’s efforts to work together with local governments. It feels that there is a lack of communication among three institutions—politically elected central government, local governments and bureaucrats—due to the design of the laws and fears of politicisation.

The DLG director said that the government has also drafted a decentralisation policy to facilitate gradual devolution of power, functions, and authority from the central government to LGs.

As per the policy, local governments can set their priorities. However, it allows the central government to intervene in cases where national priorities are more important than LG priorities.

Kado Zangpo said that once the government endorses the decentralisation policy, the DLG and central agencies would segregate the powers of the central agencies and local governments.

“We will negotiate with ministries and central agencies on which powers should be retained with them and those powers that can be delegated to local governments. For example, there should be clarity on whether or not a firewood pass can be issued by the gewog alone,” he said.

He said that the central government had not given powers to local governments as per the local government Act. “There should be clarity in the roles of the central government and local governments ultimately.”