Good local government

local leaders

local leaders

Yesterday, I was in Haa. I’d gone there to observe part of the Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdu that was in session since the 19th of May. And to receive instructions from the members of local government’s highest body in my dzongkhag.

During the past year, there’s been a lot of talk about local governments, especially about their capabilities. My position has been very consistent: that local governments, in all 20 dzongkhags, are competent, and that they are more than able to discharge their duties as enshrined in our constitution.

Yesterday, I saw that I was right. I saw that the DYT session I attended, though only briefly, was managed very well. Discussions on every issue were vibrant. And, even on difficult matters, the level and quality of debate was of a high standard. Much higher, I’m afraid, than that of the National Assembly.

So I will continue to insist for devolution and decentralization of resources and authority to local governments. Our sacred constitution demands nothing less.

 

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  1. What would be of greater interest is how the local governments manage and allocate their financial resources for the benefit of the community people. The recent audit report indicates highest proportion of unresolved cases at the Dzongkhag level and about a significant Nu.4 million at the geog level. This is something to be seriously concerned about, I think, if we must go by facts and figures. I do not shun the idea of devolution of power and authority to local governments. I’m all for it. I’m only concerned about how it might be ensured we have efficient local leaders and whether there’ll be a system of check and balance (emphasizing transparency) at that level. I am concerned about people’s equal right to development and, therefore, hope that the local governments make genuine efforts to ensure that, with support from the centre.

    • Yes Sheyoen, audit has pointed out serious problems. But the bigger problems, every year, are at the Centre. Local governments, and gewogs in particular, started handling money only a few years ago. So, in a way, they are still learning. But’s no excuse. I believe that if our local governments have enough support (resources, personnel and training) they’ll be able to handle the money very easily. And, by the way, we’re not talking of much money: most gewogs, for instance, would have less than 1.5 million in capital budget to work with. That’s just 15 lakhs. Anyone can take care of so little money. So giving them more money (the CDG, for instance, should be completely diverted to them) would enable them to perform more. Yes procedure must be followed. And they can. What they need is the chance.

      • Tshering says:

        “And, by the way, we’re not talking of much money: most gewogs, for instance, would have less than 1.5 million in capital budget to work with. That’s just 15 lakhs. Anyone can take care of so little money. So giving them more money (the CDG, for instance, should be completely diverted to them) would enable them to perform more.”…….hmmmmmm. What are you talking about? When there is Nu. 4 million unresolved case according to audit reports even when they have only about Nu. 1.5 million each, you are asking us to give them(local governments – especially the gewog) more money to control? What is your logic here? It looks like you are blinded by the CDG issue nowadays. Please! I need clarification here.

      • Your Excellency, thank you very much for your response, la.

        I remember the 75:25 formula for budget allocation from the centre to the dzongkhags, and further 75:25 formula between the dzongkhag and geogs. Eventually, geogs were in essence entitled to only 25% of 25% of the total budget. I also remember Block Grants for geogs, but know very little about its implementation. (In fact, the CDG sounds similar to this, to me at least) How much of the final denomination directly benefitted each geog with the assurance of households benefitting at the community level is perhaps another matter. (This reminds me of Late Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi’s discovery that “only 10 paise out of every one rupee reached the people,” as cited by his son Rahul Gandhi during the recent Indian election campaign. I should like to think our situation isn’t this bad.) Nevertheless, what to me seemed as important then as it appears today is people’s right to development. What seems even more important today, to me at least, is local government’s ownership of development and accountability to people. And, I do not believe we are talking about ‘technical’ management problems but rather problems of ‘moral’ nature (which, I agree, are at the centre as well and now being tackled). I do not think we need to be trained NOT to misuse budget for personal gains. That tendency, I believe, can be controlled and curbed to a great extent through an efficient check and balance system. I vote for having such a system at the local level.

        If management of a meagre 25% of 25% of the total budget was of the caliber indicated by the recent audit reports, I really do worry and wonder how bigger chunks are going to be managed by local governments. My intention is to convey the message that they must be closely monitored. My concern is that people must benefit (in the true sense of achieving long term outcome and impact, rather than just delivery of outputs for official record) and more so in rural communities, if we are serious about equity. Budget must be spent truly for the purpose intended, with conscious efforts to ensure ‘value addition’ from the budget spent. It isn’t fair when chunks of the budget go into personal pockets!

        If I may add one more thing:
        Often times, we talk about ‘budget constraints,’ but I for one believe we have the much more serious problem of ‘budget allocation and management.’ The excuse of budget constraints is getting stale, la, given our small country with small population and our over four decades old system of five-year development plans, our smart tendency to learn from others’ experiences, and continuous external financial aid.

        Thank you

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