Problems plague local govt institutions: Speakers

Dhaka,  Fri,  18 August 2017
Published : 30 Jul 2016, 23:46:26

Problems plague local govt institutions: Speakers

FE Report

Speakers at a seminar Saturday said local government institutions have been beset with various problems including lack of revenue raising authority at union parishads, interference of local lawmakers in upazilas and corruption and politicisation of these institutions.

Problems in the tax assessment procedure constrain revenue collection of UPs, they said while addressing the seminar on 'Revenue Mobilisation and Women's Representation in Union Parishad and State of Accountability of Transferred Departments at Upazila Parishad'.

Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) of Brac University organised the programme at a city hotel to disseminate study findings.

Former adviser to a caretaker government Advocate Sultana Kamal was present as the chief guest with BIGD executive director Sultan Hafeez Rahman in the chair.

In the first presentation on 'Public Finance and Revenue Mobilisation of Union Parishad', Sultan Hafeez Rahman said UPs lack adequate revenue raising authority, scarcity of skilled human resources to conduct tax assessment and generate low amount of tax while the standing committee on tax assessment and collection is dysfunctional.

The study conducted on two strong UPs and two weak UPs showed that the government grant was 88 per cent in the weak ones and 78 per cent in strong ones in the fiscal year 2013-14. Strong UPs were under a programme.

Weak UPs collected 5.0 per cent revenue from land transfer while it was 11 per cent for strong ones, local revenue was 30 per cent in weak UPs and 6.0 per cent in strong UPs, donors/NGOs fund was nil in weak UPs and 2.0 per cent in strong ones and government fund was 4.0 per cent in weak UPs and 3.0 per cent in strong UPs.       

Local revenue base in UPs is very narrow and limited taxable resources while there is misstatement in local revenue record, lack of transparency in collection and documentation.

Anti-Corruption Commissioner (ACC) Nasiruddin Ahmed, a discussant on the paper, said revenue mobilisation is very important for decentralisation.

He identified lack of awareness among citizens about tax laws, systems and lack of capacity of NBR staff in terms of technical and assessment knowledge hamper resource mobilisation.

UP Governance Project (UPGP) project director of UNDP Waliullah said UPs have no tax rules. But local revenue is necessary for achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs).

He said if there is visible development activities with tax money, people will definitely be encouraged to pay tax.

In another paper on 'State of Accountability of Transferred Departments at Upazila Parishad and its Consequences for Allocation and Utilisation of Resources - A Study of Three Departments', Mirza Hassan said upazila vice-chairpersons from the ruling party having close relation with the lawmakers of the same party tend to be more proactive and influential in making decisions in the committees.

The study also showed that the transferred officials manipulate vouchers to give honorarium to the MPs for their attendance at different programmes.

The advisory role of MPs has created a broader space/opportunity for him/her to intervene in the process of fund allocations and distributions.

"Whatever the MPs are saying become law and their decision is the ultimate decision. The great potential that Bangladesh had in decentralisation is on the verge of diminishing due to the influence of the MPs," he said.    

Another study showed that women local representatives enter politics mainly for serving society and monetary benefit.

Those women who have political connections or good relation with the local administration have influence in decision-making, otherwise they have to compromise with the chairmen for getting support and avoid conflicts.

Citizens for Good Governance (Sujan) secretary Badiul Alam Majumder said women's marginalisation will end through their participation in politics in a larger number. Policymakers have to understand that it is not a favour to women rather political participation is their right.

He termed the present system of reserved seats a 'faulty' system.
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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