A government committee has found a general lack in discipline when it comes to the hiring of employees by the country’s municipalities. It has also found irregularities in spending. The fact that many municipalities were created without following basic rules has compounded the problem further and the net result is that in 260 municipalities we have more than 35,000 employees who have not received salaries for up to seven years. In fact, at least half the municipalities do not even qualify to be municipalities as per the criteria set by the Local Government (Municipality) Act, 2009. Political expediency motivated their formation because people needed jobs and now the government is in a fix.
The committee led by an additional secretary of Local Government Division (LGD) has found that municipalities have failed to increase their income required to meet the new government pay scale announced in 2015 and that has led to a net deficit of Tk 31 crore for municipalities. The ad-hoc manner in which people have been hired and put on the payroll in many of these bodies brings up the question of graft and while accusations are being traded, thousands of employees and staff members are suffering the consequences of no pay year after year.
We covered this issue a few months ago and now that a government committee has found anomalies in a large number of the municipalities, it should come up with a concrete plan of action on how to rationalise their number. True that such a move will be unpopular, but illegalities of the past have to be rectified in the present and it cannot be put off any longer. Some emergency funds need to be released and if need be, excess employees need to be laid off with a golden handshake arrangement and the revised number of municipalities have to be structured and staffed in a manner that will not require State bailout every year.