Further amending upazila parishad law!
LGRD minister Syed Ashraful Islam has placed a bill before the parliament seeking alterations to the upazila parishad law whereby it appears that the executive authority over the local body will be further consolidated. The proposed law envisages widening of the definition of 'misconduct' on charges of which chairman, a vice-chairman or any member of a parishad can be removed from office as well as procedurial changes in effecting the removal of an incumbent.
In the existing law misconduct is defined as 'misuse of power, corruption, nepotism and willful misrule'. In addition to these, the proposed legislation includes taking personal advantage by unfair means, partiality, extortion, theft, robbery, grabbing of property, breach of trust, rape and killing etc, some of which sound rather vague.
The bill says the government can remove a chairman, a vice-chairman or any member of a parishad 'on grounds of misconduct, refusal to discharge duties, absence for three consecutive meetings and mental and physical inabilities to perform duties, etc' by issuing a gazatte notification. Whereupon it will appoint an administrator to perform the parishad's functions.
It is noteworthy that elected representatives retain their authority to pass no-confidence motion against a parishad member. However, the procedure for removal of an incumbent is being amended by empowering the Divisional Commissioner to investigate the allegations against a member after receiving a no-confidence motion signed by the majority. It is upon completion of the investigation and satisfaction of the commissioner that he will convene a meeting of the parishad in which the members will be called upon to pass a resolution to remove the incumbent in question with at least four-fifths majority. Then it will be sent to the government for final decision.
One important feature relates to redesignation of upazila executive officers from secretary to principal officers with evidently more power to be vested in them. Previously, they were only to provide secretarial assistance to the parishad. With the binding advisory role of the MPs vis-a-vis the upazila chairmen, the latter's powers are already curbed. Besides, the two sets of elected public representatives have been brought into a potential state of conflict. Now, the executive is given an extra mileage. In all, we believe, as many do, all this runs counter to the AL government's commitment in their electoral manifesto to strengthening the local government system.
One redeeming feature, however, is that the authority for scheduling the holding of upazila elections is proposed to pass from the government to the election commission.