Upazila Parishad chairmen and vice-chairmen on Saturday once again demanded curbing influence of upazila nirbahi officers over the local government body.
‘Unlimited power’ has been vested in the administration cadre officers in violation of the constitution that says local government in every administrative unit shall entrusted to bodies composed of elected representatives, they said at a press conference at Dhaka Reporters’ Unity.
Bangladesh Upazila Parishad Association president Harun-or-Rashid Howlader read out a written statement placing a five-point charter of demands that included removal of all barriers to establish the authority of upazila councils over 17 agencies of 12 ministries transferred to the local government body.
The association demanded activation of 17 committees headed by vice-chairpersons formed as per the Upazila Parishad Act 1998 for the 17 agencies.
If any more committee is needed, that can be formed with the local lawmaker as its adviser, the upazila chair as president, vice-chairs as vice-presidents and the UNO and the departmental officer concerned as the member-secretary.
It demanded issuance of circulars by the ministries concerned asking the officials of the 17 agencies to run the administrative financial activities of the agencies with approval from the chairman as the chief executive of the council.
The demands include empowerment of chairmen to approve the collection of revenue and expenditure to curb corruption and the replacement of ‘Upazila Administration’ with ‘Upazila Parishad’ in all official communications.
Threatening tougher movement for the demands, the association announced programmes. The programmes include holding a views exchange meeting and forming human chains across the country on January 17 and another human chain in Dhaka on January 27.
‘We will announce tougher agitation programmes if the demands are not met,’ said Harun.
Harun said that they were also taking legal actions against the violation of the constitution.
He alleged that the local bureaucrats were ignoring the role of the elected representatives in running the second lowest tier of local government.
The local government and the local administration cannot ensure the betterment of people in such a conflicting situation, said Local government expert Tofail Ahmed.
‘It is a British colonial practice that bureaucrats will run the local administration. But as the laws and rules of independent Bangladesh, the public representatives must run the administrative units under the local government system,’ he said.
He suggested forming a commission for complementary and supplementary reforms to make the administration accountable to the local representatives.
Local government senior secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said that there was no problem in the existing system.
One should perform one’s responsibilities as defined in the laws, said the secretary, also the Bangladesh Administrative Service Association president, adding that UNOs should discharge the responsibilities vested in them by the central government.
The leaders of the association, a platform of 1,476 upazila chairmen and vice-chairmen, also demanded amendments of all the government circulars by the 17 departments under 12 ministries that curved their authority over those departments transferred to the upazila parishad.
Though the Upazila Partishad Act 1998 and several other rules and orders, especially the amendment made to the act in 2011, made 17 agencies and their employees accountable to the councils, they said.
In reality, the government officials only follow orders of the ministries, divisions and agencies concerned, they alleged.
Upazila chairmen and vice-chairmen alleged that the UNOs were depriving local people of their right to the government facilities meant for them.
Eligible people are not getting government aids even in the time of the coronavirus pandemic, they alleged.
They said that corrupt officials were getting indemnity under the Public Service Act 2018, which prohibits law enforcement agencies from arresting government employees without approval.
Association general secretary Saiful Islam Khan Biru was present among others at the press conference attended by over 100 chairmen and vice-chairmen.