PESHAWAR: The Rs829 million development funds allocated for Kohistan during the last three years haven’t been spent due to the absence of local bodies in the province’s most backward district.
Billions of rupees have spent on the development activities carried out through three tiers of the local government system, including district, tehsil/town and village and neighborhood councils in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
However, Kohistan didn’t get the district development funds due to the nonexistence of local bodies as the local government elections wasn’t held in 2015 due to the pendency of the Kohistan district bifurcation case with the Peshawar High Court.
Under the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act, 2013, the provincial government is bound to devolve 30 per cent of the funds allocated for the provincial annual development program to the three tiers of the local government system. The devolved funds are non-lapsable.
Minister says local govt law to be amended to utilise money
The provincial government gives share to the districts according to the Provincial Finance Commission (PFC) Award.
After the installation of the local government system in 2015, billions of rupees have been devolved to the districts in the province.
Kohistan’s share in PFC stood at Rs177.288 million in the financial year 2015-16, Rs353.315 million in 2016-17 and Rs298.4 million in 2017-18, show the official documents.
The finance department released that share in the last two years but funds for the current financial year have yet to be released. Ironically, the released funds have not been utilised so far due to the absence of the local bodies.
When contacted, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MPA from Kohistan Abdul Sattar Khan termed the non-utilisation of the local government funds for the district an injustice with the poor local residents.
He said since the division of Kohistan had yet not final, the provincial government should develop a mechanism for the utilisation of allocated funds.
“It’s ironic that not a single penny of the district development funds has been utilised in the far-off Kohistan. We have demanded of the chief minister to amend the LG law to pave the way for the utilisation of these funds,” he said.
The PML-N lawmaker claimed that political consensus had almost been developed over the division of Kohistan into three districts, including Kohistan, Lower Kohistan and Kolai-Palas district.
President of the Local Council Association Himayatullah Mayar demanded of the provincial government to accelerate efforts for the amicable solution of the division of Kohistan and hold local government elections there without delay.
He told Dawn that under Article 140-A of the Constitution, the provincial government was bound to hold local body polls in Kohistan.
“Ironically, the people of Kohistan have been deprived of the local bodies though such entities have been functioning in other parts of the province for a long time,” he said.
Article 140-A states, “Each Province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments.”
When contacted, local government and rural development minister Inayatullah Khan said the provincial government had decided to amend the LG law to pave the way for the utilisation of Kohistan funds.
“The funds will be utilised under the supervision of the local deputy commissioner,” he said, adding that the tehsil municipal officer and assistant director of the local government department would also be involved for the purpose.
Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2017