MB Subba

Contradictions between provisions of the Local Government Rules and Regulations (LGRR) 2012 and the Local Government (LG) Act have led to problems in implementation, according to local leaders.

The issue was pointed out by the Centre for Local Governance and Research (CLG) at a recently held meeting in Trongsa.

For instance, Section 189 of LG Act states that the chairperson of a monitoring and evaluation committee shall be elected from amongst members of the committee.  But the LGRR states that the chairperson of the local government (DT chairperson at the dzongkhag level and GT chairperson at the gewog level) will be ex-officio chairperson of the committee.

More interestingly, most of the dzongdags chair the monitoring and evaluation committees in most dzongkhags in contradiction to both LG Act and LGRR.

Executive director of CLG, Tharchen, said that such contradictions could not only become a source of conflicts between local leaders and dzongkhag administration officials but also lead to dilution of the essence of LG Act and local governance.  The issues could also lead to confusion among local leaders and dzongkhag administrations, he said.

“LG members, who are aware of the Act, will follow it. Civil servants, who may not be aware of the Act, would go by the rules, which will be null and void if they are not consistent with the Act,” he said.

The monitoring and evaluation committee is empowered to take action against the contractor if the work is not executed as per the specification.

The dzongkhag monitoring committee of Dagana chaired by the dzongdag in January asked two contractors to dismantle and rebuild the partition wall of a six-unit classroom building of Tsangkha middle secondary school on the grounds of compromising the quality.

But close observers say that such decisions taken by a committee that is formed as per the rules but not in conformity with the Act would be challenged as the awareness level of local leaders increases.

Dzongkhags have tender committees to award and monitor work.  But the LG Act does not recognise committees that are not established by the local government.

Section 188 of the LG Act states that committees shall be established by local governments for purpose of specific functions, in accordance with the provisions of the Act. 

However, a local leader said that the dzongkhag tender committees are formed by the dzongkhag administration and headed by the dzongdag. “The dzongkhag tendering committee involves the local leader if the budget is the gewog’s,” he said.

Dzongdags said that the rules and regulations are framed by the government and that they do not have the power to amend them.  But they said that they execute work as per the Act and LGRR.

Sarpang Dzongdag Lobzang Dorji said that local leaders are sensitised on the relevant Acts and rules after their election. “Local governments are generally aware of their roles and responsibilities,” he said.

The monitoring committees at the gewog level are assisted by civil servants with technical knowledge, he said.  At the dzongkhag level, he said that the dzongkhag involves local leaders in the committee. “We don’t do alone,” he said.

Lhuentse Dzongdag Jambay Wangchuk said that there was no monitoring and evaluation committee as such in the dzongkhag, but that the awarding and monitoring of work are carried out by the dzongkhag tendering committee. “We refer rules and Act while carrying out our works,” he said.

A dzongdag said that they also follow procurement rules, besides the LGRR, to evaluate and monitor the work. “We have to do the monitoring and evaluation of work as we’re answerable to the audit,” he said.

A local leader said that the rules and regulations were not consistent with the Act, but that it was in the government’s hand to streamline them.

Kazhi gup Wangdi from Wangdue said that the work related to tendering, monitoring and evaluation of activities is carried out under the chairpersonship of the gup and the dzongdag at the gewog and dzongkhag levels respectively.  The gup, he said, will participate as a committee member at the dzongkhag level.

A gup from Tsirang said that large projects within the gewog are awarded by the dzongkhag tendering committee but executed by the gewog.

“Even the monitoring works are carried out by the gewog level committee. But the works at the dzongkhag level are carried out by the dzongkhag tendering committee headed by the dzongdag,” he said.

A gup from Samdrupjongkhar said that all the provisions of neither the Act nor the LGRR have been implemented due to inconsistencies and practical problems.  He said that that the committee need co-opted members for technical expertise.

“It’s not possible to implement all the provisions of law and rules due to resources constraints and inconsistencies in provisions,” he said.

A gup said that it was better to leave the monitoring work to the dzongkhag administration. “The dzongkhag monitoring team is more effective and they also have the required technical expertise,” he said.

A monitoring and evaluation committee may have co-opted members, who can be appointed under the authority of the chairperson, based on the recommendation of the committee based on relevancy and need to the committee.  But the LG rules state that the dzongdag may invite sector heads and officials from relevant agencies in committee meetings.

In another similar contradiction, the Act states that the committee shall work under the direction of the local government chairperson.  But LGRR states that the local governments shall conduct monitoring and evaluation of development policies, plans and projects as per the procedures formulated by the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC).

The CLG has pointed out this as a source of conflict between monitoring and evaluation committees of the dzongkhag administration and DT.

The Act mandates LG chairpersons to submit an annual report of the implementation status of planned activities to the sessions of the local government.  However, the LG rules state that the dzongdag shall table the progress report before the dzongkhag monitoring and evaluation committee.

The CLG also points out that there is no mention of drungpas in the LG Act and that there is no legal basis for drawing terms of reference (ToR) for a drungkhag committee.

As per the LG rules and regulations, the drungpa shall be accountable to the dzongdag and responsible for the development programmes and projects implemented in the gewogs under his or her jurisdiction.

Director Kado Zangpo of the Department of Local Governance (DLG) said that it would be better for the rules once the LG Act is amended.

DLG has been appraised about the inconsistencies between the Act and the rules, it was learnt.

However, Tharchen said that the amendment of LG Act could take about 18 months and that new rules should be readied for the new local government that will be elected towards the end of the year.  The confusion, he said, should be cleared at the earliest.

He said that such issues used to be thrashed out at the annual gups’ conference. “They don’t have a proper platform to raise the issues as the’ conferences didn’t happened for a last few years,” he said.