The role of deputiesIt is necessary to analyse the executive powers of the federal units provided by the constitution.
Deputy chairpersons and deputy mayors of local governments are often heard saying that they do not have much responsibility and that the chairpersons and mayors do not give them any authority.
But the fact is that the Local Government Operation Act 2017 has given deputy chairpersons and deputy mayors important responsibilities as heads of the judicial committees where citizens go to first for justice.
Last week, Kathmandu Metropolitan City organised a conference in which about 500 members of local judicial committees from all over the country participated. The convention issued an 11-point Judicial Committee Kathmandu Declaration 2023.
The declaration speaks about ensuring easy access to justice by adopting a fast, fair, effective and responsive way to resolve disputes. It proclaims that special emphasis should be given to the operation of ward-level mediation centres to resolve disputes through reconciliation as much as possible.
As per Article 217 of the constitution, each judicial committee consists of three members and is headed by the deputy mayor or deputy chairperson.
The constitution gives judicial authority to the local level to exercise equal powers as the courts. There is a need for widespread advocacy at the civic level about the justification and importance of this committee.
The federal and provincial governments have not provided as much support as needed. The federal government has not even arranged for a law officer to assist the judicial committee.
The powers of this committee are listed in the Local Government Operation Law. Some of these powers include handling disputes over property lines, dams, ditches or distribution and use of water, damage to crops, pasture land, green fodder, fuel wood, unpaid wages, lost or found domestic animals and birds, and planting of trees.
There is also a provision in the law that disputes related to divorce, defamation, looting and assault, stray cattle and trespassing should be resolved through mediation.
As per the Local Government Act, the deputy chairpersons and deputy mayors head the judicial committee, local revenue advisory committee, budget and programme formulation committee, monitoring and evaluation committee, non-governmental organisation coordination committee, and consumer rights protection and market monitoring committee. The scopes of these committees are so wide that if they are active and work properly, the citizens can really feel the change.
Among the functions of the revenue advisory committee, it is responsible for providing advice on the type of tax policy that will aid the promotion of local industry and business and the creation of jobs.
There are widespread complaints that there has been tax terror at some local units. If this committee works with honesty, there will be no such problem.
The budget formulation committee has the authority to formulate plans and programmes at the local level. Its core function includes preparing policy and programmes for the coming fiscal year, prioritising budget and programmes, making arrangements for thematic sectoral discussions on the budget, and making arrangements to avoid duplication.
The monitoring and evaluation part of the local units is the weakest. If the monitoring is effective, irregularities will be reduced and there will be some feeling of good governance as it also supports corruption control. The tasks of this committee include facilitating the achievement of the expected results from the programmes and projects, monitoring the programmes and projects, and facilitating and coordinating the resolution of disputes or problems.
It is necessary to build a mechanism to monitor all the programmes and projects carried out at the local level by the local level authorities.
It is the responsibility of the government to protect the rights of consumers. At the local level, the main responsibility in this regard has been given to the deputy chairman and deputy mayor. The functions of the consumer protection committee include making necessary policy arrangements for the protection of consumer rights, monitoring the supply arrangements, and recommending punishment for violation of consumer rights.
The deputy chairman and deputy mayor also have important roles in many other structures. They include the women’s entrepreneurship committee, local children's rights committee, rights protection committee of people with disabilities, resource estimation and budget formulation committee, local disaster management committee, social inclusion implementation committee and periodic plan formulation steering committee.
In fact, the law has given many responsibilities to the deputy chairman and deputy mayor. If they work sincerely, they will not have a single day of free time. Rather than saying that there is no work, and no rights have been given to them, it is important to work with honesty within the authority given by the constitution and law.