The Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) is reviewing a national decentralisation policy, which outlines clear roles and responsibilities for local governments (LGs).

The policy was drafted to facilitate gradual devolution of power, functions, and authority from the central government to LGs.

After the policy passes the GNH screening test, the commission will submit it to the Cabinet for approval and implementation.

According to the draft policy, the central government will perform only those functions that cannot be undertaken effectively at the LG level.

LG can set their own priorities. However, the policy allows the central government to intervene in cases where national priorities are more important than LG priorities.

“The central government shall not undermine or surpass LGs, except in cases where national priorities should take precedence over local government priorities. Dzongkhag administrations shall not undermine or surpass the Thromde and Gewog Administrations,” it states.

Accountability of LGs has been given due consideration.

LGs are required to be accountable not only to the central government but also to citizens equally, according to the policy.

The citizens shall also bear responsibility for their own progress and development.

At a time when local governments are facing a shortage of engineers, the new policy states that the human resource capacity shall form a core element of devolution of roles and responsibilities from the central government.

The policy requires the central government to ensure that there is matching human resources capacity at the LG level to manage the devolved functions.

The policy will also form a basis for the government to enact a national decentralisation Act and amend the Local Government Act 2009.

The government is expected to incorporate features of the policy in the new local government Act.

Once the policy is adopted, it will become the responsibility of the central government to support LGs in the implementation of resolutions of Dzongkhag Tshogdu, Gewog Tshogde, and Thromde Tshogde.

One of the important features of the policy is that the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) will be required to decentralise and empower local government administrations to carry out human resource functions.

The RCSC should also review the “focal person system” in LGs to ensure that officials are not overburdened and service delivery is not compromised.

Transparency and information sharing in the LGs are also key features of the new policy.

LGs must display on the public notice board the agenda for the next Dzongkhag Tshogdu, Gewog Tshogde, five-year and annual plans and budgets, calls for tenders, awards and value of contracts.

The government has allocated 50 percent of the 12th Plan budget to LGs, which will be distributed as gewog annual grants and dzongkhag development grants.

The policy also aims to improve an enabling environment for LGs to be more self-reliant and autonomous with adequate human and financial resources.

At present, less than 1 percent of LG income comes from own source revenue generation.

The policy states that challenges persist in terms of fully financing local development needs and priorities with insufficient flexibility and authority in the decision-making and use of allocated resources.

MB Subba