Training local government officials

Posted: ফেব্রুয়ারি 2, 2009 in Local government

IT is now obvious that the idea of holding local government elections ahead of national elections wasn’t conspiracy driven; it was precisely to circumvent what a cabinet minister and an AL lawmakerviolate the election codes notwithstanding repeated warnings from the Election Commission (EC). The lawmaker also allegedly abused and beat up poll officials.

Although they both tried to convince the prime minister of their innocence while accusing the EC of victimising them and “making a big fuss for no good reason,” the EC and the AL are investigating the incidents independently. I recommend that if they’re found guilty, they should also be chastised for lying to and misleading the PM.

“Their actions have brought blemish upon her (Sheikh Hasina) and the party’s brilliant electoral victory and raised unnecessary doubts in the public mind as to how serious is AL chief’s commitment to bring change in politics and in governance,” wrote Mahfuz Anam in his January 25, The Daily Star commentary.

The allegations against the minister and lawmaker weren’t isolated incidents. The Daily Star reported “Clashes, ruling party activists influencing polling, snatching of ballot boxes and, preventing voters from going to the polling centers, forcing voters to vote openly.” Nine miscreants were condemned to incarceration in instant judgment by judicial magistrates and several dozens were also arrested for criminal violations.

Mahfuz Anam further observed, “such indiscipline and self-serving political culture” won’t be hospitable to the realisation of “Digital Bangladesh.’ ”

As all politics is localso are all urban and rural development activities. The caretaker government promulgated Local Government Ordinance barring elected officials from holding party portfolio to depoliticise local governancenot the society as explicated by the LGRD minister. Proscribing MPs involvement in the functioning of upazila parishads was also well intentioned. Why scrap them before even trying to see how well they work?

Block allocation of Tk 2 crore to MPs for carrying out development activities in their constituencies will breed corruption, nepotism, and may conflict with local government plans by perpetuating sitting MPs’ influence in their constituencies while putting new contestants from opposition parties at a disadvantage.

Block allocation of funds for MPs is politicisation of taxpayers’ money. Eliminating milk and honey from the political process, wherever possible, may discourage the rent-seeking politicians from running for MP and other public offices. It will also strengthen local government’s independence in decision-making and implementation of development plans. The MPs should do what they’re elected forlawmaking and providing “checks and balances” in governmental operations.

The PM talked about the much-needed training and orientation of the MPs. I believe similar orientation is even more imperative for all local government officials (LGOs) along the following lines:

Staff effectiveness: Any organisation must promote the development and performance of employees. This requires knowledge of developing interpersonal relationship (collegiality); motivation to perform effectively; the ability and skill to identify co-workers’ strengths and weaknesses.

Policy facilitation: To implement policies, elected officials must get full cooperation from their staff in identifying bottlenecks, and work toward removing them to facilitate reaching common goals and objectives. This requires an aptitude for group interactions and political mannerism, articulation skill, and ability to engage others in identifying issues and outcomes.

Administering service delivery: Elected officials must ensure that the citizens receive services promptly. The LGA staff must have clear knowledge of service areas and delivery options; skill in assessing community needs and allocating resources.

Adherence to democratic principles: LGOs must show commitment to democratic principles by respecting elected officials and the decision-making process. They should educate citizens about local government; democratic principles, political processes, and local government laws and regulations.

Planning and management: Given resource constraints, it is imperative that the LGOs have the expertise to sort out short-term and long-term acquisitions, allocation and analysis of financial and human resources. These can be achieved by giving them the knowledge and skill in budgeting, financial analysis, and human resources management.

Honesty and integrity: Politicians in all societies are reckless spenders, and in the process they tend to indulge in activities in which delivery of public service becomes subordinate to self-service. As a result, the disjuncture between fairness and integrity, dishonesty and ethicality, and personal and professional relationships becomes blurred. Providing knowledge of business and personal ethics, and ability to understand issues of ethics and integrity in specific situations would be very helpful in keeping LGOs managing local government administration.

For lifting Bangladesh to the status of a developed country by 2021, building an efficient and corruption free local government system is an indispensable prerequisite.

Dr. Abdullah A. Dewan is Professor of Economics at Eastern Michigan University.

The daily star 03.02.2009


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