Zila Parishads run with administrators

The appointment of unelected administrators to Zila Parishads has put the accountability and good governance of the local government body at stake, observe experts.

According to them, withholding the elections to the Zila Parishads after the appointment of administrators to the local government body 32 months ago also goes against the constitutional mandate of the government.

Contacted, local government expert Prof Tofail Ahmed told UNB that it is illegal to keep unelected administrators in Zila Parishads.

“Keeping administrators in Zila Parishads is an interim arrangement. It can’t continue for an indefinite period,” he said.

ministryProf Tofail also noted that there is no accountability as the administrators are not elected.

The Zila Parishad, the first tier of local government institutions, came into being with the promulgation of an ordinance in 1988 by then military rule of Gen HM Ershad.

After the fall of Ershad in a mass upsurge in 1990, Zila Parishad turned nonfunctional as the successive governments did not take any initiative to make it functional.

After a two-decade gap, the Awami League-led grand alliance government on December 15, 2011 appointed district administrators to 61 Zila Parishads on the basis of a pick-and-choose process.

The then government had made it clear that the election to the Zila Parishads will be held in six months. Although the AL-led grand alliance government retained power through the January-5 parliamentary polls, there has been no sign of election to the local government body.

Meanwhile, talking to reporters after a meeting with deputy commissioners in Dhaka on July 9 last, Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Syed Ashraful Islam said the government has no plan to hold Zila Parishad polls any time soon.

Replying to a question whether the Zila Parishads will be dissolved, the minister said, “It deserves consideration. There’s no use of having unnecessary unit under local government… this’s not good for a democratic country…there’s no use of so many local government institutions.”

Secretary of Sushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujan) Bodiul Alam Majumder said the government runs the Zila Parishads with appointed administrators in violation with the constitutional provision.

Article 59 (1) of the constitution says, “Local government in every administrative unit of the republic shall be entrusted to bodies, composed of persons elected in accordance with the law.”

Majumder said the government also breached its own pledges by appointing unelected administrators to the Zila Parishads as its 2008 election manifesto ensured strengthening local government with good governance.

He further said an unelected person cannot deliver good governance because there is no accountability involved in the process.

In a democratic country, no one is beyond accountability, said Majumder, adding, “Election is a way of ensuring accountability.”

Several district administrators interviewed by UNB also pinned down the problems they have been facing in discharging their duties because of their status as unelected.

Hasina Dowla, the administrator of Dhaka Zila Parishad, told UNB, “I’ve been facing problems in every step for being an unelected administrator. Had I been elected, I wouldn’t have faced the troubles.”

Echoing the predicament of Hasina Dowla, Miazan Ali, administrator of Meherpur Zilla Parishad, said, “Our dignity could have been enhanced had we been elected.”

Local Government Division secretary Monzur Hossain told UNB, “There’s no government decision or direction to hold the Zila Parishad election.”

Sought comments on the allegation that people are not getting proper service from the unelected administrators, he said: “I don’t think so. The administrators are not government officials. Though not elected, they have people’s representation locally.”

Meanwhile, in the annual review meeting on the development of Zila Parishad recently, Zila Parishad administrators urged the government to give them more power to foster the development activities of the district.