Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) recommended reforming the Zila Parishads by elected representatives; reduce influence of Member of the Parliament (MP) and fitting distribution of responsibilities between Deputy Commissioners and Zila Parishad Chairman. These recommendations were tabled at the press launch of a TIB conducted study titled “Zila Parishad in the Local Government System: Challenges of Governance and things need to be done” on 9 April 2014 at the Bangladesh Institute of Administration and Management (BIAM) Foundation auditorium. Nahid Sharmin, Deputy Programme Manager, Research and Policy, TIB presented the findings of the study. M Hafizuddin Khan, Member, Board of Trustees; Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director; Dr Sumaiya Khair, Deputy Executive Director; Mohammad Rafiqul Hasan, Director, Research and Policy were also present during the launch.
According to the study, Zila Parishads though being considered as an important local government institution (LGI) place in country’s local government system could not be effective as expected. Political parties for years pledged to make reform Zila Parishads through holding elections but made a U turn and appointed party men as Administrator to run these.
Zila Parishad Act was enacted in 2000 but with no election held for 14 years. Limitations of this act have been exploited to politically control this LGI.
In addition, influences of the MPs and bureaucrat’s reluctancy toward people’s engagement in the district level administration have resulted in weakening this LGI.There are evidences that local influential quarters and politicians are in possession of Zila Parishad’s property and in many cases they have used their influences to limit its income for their personal interest.
Local government system was more powerful and effective during the British rule, but because of central control over the system,
it is significantly weaker. We want an effective system free from central influence- M Hafizuddin Khan
Responding to the journalists Hafizuddin Khan Said “Local government system was more powerful and effective during the British rule, but because of central control over the system, it is significantly weaker. We want an effective system free from central influence.”
Dr Iftekharuzzaman said, “Empowerment of local government at Zila
Parishad level has been brought to pause by not holding elections, and as a result, we have witnessed lack of coordination and irregularities and non-existence of accountability mechanism in running this institution.” “We want elected public representatives to run Zila Parishads” he added.
The study identified a number of other challenges in making Zila Parishads effective. These include; lack of capacity, dependency on government grant, corruption in recruitment, use of Zila Parishad as party office, non-existence of both short and long term development plans etc.
To overcome these challenges, the study placed nine recommendations including clear determination of government’s authority over Zila Parishad through amendment of Zila Parishad Act 2000, appointment against vacant posts, coordination with other LGIs through monthly meeting, coordination between the administrator and the chief executive officer and overall coordination.