Report: Lack of federal laws hits provincial, local governments

  • Centre’s lack of urgency upsets provincial governments
- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu

Feb 13, 2019-

Basic functioning of the provincial governments has taken a hit due to the lack of framework legislation at the federal level, widespread shortages of essential staff and lack of provincial institutions for effective implementation of budget, a research has found.

The provincial governments’ failure to function properly and impact citizens’ everyday life led to widespread concern and even scepticism on the relevance of the provincial set-up under the federal structure, the research conducted by Democracy Resource Centre Nepal, a non-government organisation, shows.

The DRCN, which has been working in the area of research and reporting on Nepal’s political process and society since 2014, said it prepared the report by interviewing 652 respondents after visiting 45 local units of 19 districts across the seven provinces from August to November last year. The finding of the report was discussed among the stakeholders on Tuesday.

As per article 57 (6) of the constitution, the provincial assembly, village council and municipal council should make laws consistent with the corresponding federal law. “Any law introduced by them will be void to the extent of inconsistency with federal laws.”

According to the report, the provincial governments complained publicly that the federal government didn’t show the urgency in introducing important bill and facilitating the establishment of key provincial institutions.

This, according to the report, rendered the provincial as well as local governments reluctant to legislate important jurisdictional laws as they were not sure if their bill could be in conflict with the federal laws.

According to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, as many as 109 laws, which clash with constitutional provisions, need to be amended.

As per article 304 of the constitution, the laws inconsistent with the constitution cease to operate one year after the first session of the federal legislature, to the extent of inconsistency. The first session of the federal parliament made up of the House of Representatives and the National Assembly was held on March 5 last year. That means these laws need to be amended within March 5 this year.

Law Secretary Rajiv Gautam told the Post that amendments to all the 109 laws have reached Parliament. “They are expected to be passed by Parliament within a few days,” he said.

Due to the delay in formulating federal laws, provincial governments have failed to establish key institutions such as the Provincial Police and Provincial Public Service Commission. When the Province 2 Assembly on October 13 last year introduced the Provincial Police Act without waiting for the Federal Police Act, it invited strong reservation from the Centre. Dispute has arisen between the two sides over jurisdictions after the federal government registered a Bill on Operation, Supervision and Coordination of Nepal Police and Province Police last month.

The provision of the bill, which states that the federal government appoints the chief of the provincial police force and mobilises Nepal Police personnel ranked deputy superintendent and above, has invited protest from the provincial governments. The provinces are in favour of appointing the chief of the provincial police force by themselves.

The provinces have also expressed discontent over the provisions of the Bill on Maintaining Law and Order registered in the federal parliament, which will give the Centre the authority to mobilise the Chief District Officer as its representative to maintain law and order. The provinces argue that maintaining law and order within their geography is their sole constitutional jurisdiction.

“When the Chief District Officer and the Superintendent of Police are not answerable to us, how can we carry out our basic duties of general administration and security?” the report quoted a Province 2 minister as saying.

By issuing an executive order in November last year, the Home Ministry had allowed provincial governments to transfer police personnel up to the sub-inspector level.

Province 2 government has been more vocal with its grievances against the federal government compared to other provinces as the other six provinces are led by chief ministers from the party steering the federal government.

“Six provincial governments seem to be looking at the centre for guidance, which is not helping the cause of guaranteeing the constitutional rights of provincial governments,” said Krishna Hachhethu, a political scientist.

He said that the relationship between Kathmandu and the provinces is not like that between parents and children where they obey the couple. “It’s like relations between the shareholders,” he said.

The report also stressed that the lack of legal clarity on the matter of jurisdictions remained the biggest cause of conflict between the governments in multiple cases especially in matters related to taxation and revenue from natural resources.

The DRCN report pointed out problems facing the provincial governments due to the lack of employees and qualified staff who should have been mobilised by the Centre urgently.

The provincial governments also complained of the absence of consultation from the centre while transferring key government officials, affecting service delivery in the provinces, the report says. “The relationship between the provinces and federal government through the first year was difficult and lacking in mutual trust,” the report concluded.

It also discussed relations between the federal and local governments and provincial and local governments. It concluded that the local federal units had better relations with the federal government than that between the local and provincial governments because the Local Level Operation Act dictated their respective responsibilities.

“The lack of trust between the local and provincial governments was also visible and reflected in poor communication and coordination between the two governments,” it stated. According the report, the elected representatives of local governments were concerned that provinces were not coordinating with them while drafting budgets or setting up the institutional mechanism for budget implementation.

Published: 13-02-2019 11:29

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