Office of Div Commissioner restored
August 25, 2008
LAHORE - With the exit of General (r) Pervez Musharraf, the mastermind of the Local Government System, the Punjab government on Sunday restored the post of the Divisional Commissioner in the province though not violating the Local Government Ordinance as it has been done according to the Land Revenue Act.

In a meeting, Chief Minister Punjab Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif has formally approved the restoration of the post of the Divisional Commissioner, and as a result of this decision, eight administrative divisions - Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan, Sargodha, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and Lahore - have also been restored in the Punjab.

Shahbaz Sharif has also ordered that the office of the Commissioner and the divisions should be restored immediately and the financial resources be used with extreme caution, care and economy. He directed that appropriate amendments in different laws be made for making the office of the Commissioner as an effective hub of coordination and control.

This decision has been taken to eliminate the difficulties being faced by the provincial government in coordinating with the districts. The primary purpose of this decision is to effectively handle shortage of food items, price checking, profiteering and hoarding of essential commodities and to check increase in encroachment on state land and public places, and to make the performance of the provincial government more effective. Secondly, the Punjab government also intends to remove the existing shortcomings in the system of revenue receipts. Thirdly, local citizens may not have to travel to the provincial headquarters to seek redressal of their grievances against District decisions. Moreover, it will also enable the government to effectively monitor the development projects and the relief measures taken to meet any natural calamity adverse situations or crises.

According to sources, the Divisional Commissioners will be given the revenue powers, which are now with the Executive District Officers (Revenue) after the promulgation of the Punjab Local Government Ordinance 2002, who are in-turn answerable to the District Nazims. However, powers of the EDO (R) cannot be withdrawn until the PLGO is amended or abolished. "However, with the Divisional Commissioners in place, the supervision and implementation spans will shrink substantially, as the PLGO was implemented without deliberating any administrative sense. The present decision will not directly target the fiscal powers of the district, rather the Divisional Commissioner will act as a linkage between the federal, provincial and local governments besides providing impetus to the implementation of the orders from the highest offices," he maintained.

Previously, the Divisional Commissioners were responsible for the revenue, development and administration, but with the abolition of the post powers were mainly given to the District Nazims. "The PLGO was neither for a devolution of powers, nor for the genuine decentralisation. However, it did damage administration, as with vested interests, the politicians in a fluid political set-up, mess up with the administration," averred the source adding that the Commissioners would look after the affairs of their respective districts, besides implementing the orders more quickly without the involvement of the CM and the Chief Secretary of the Punjab.

There is also a concern among the highest offices of the province that there were no vertical linkages from the Union Councils to the Provincial governments. "When the PLGO was being implemented, the provinces were not ready to accept the LGS, but it was forced upon them. Now there is a realisation at every level to mend the system," he said pointing out that all provinces had consensus that there was no room to mend the LGS, and they wanted to go back to the Local Government Ordinance of 1979. "The provincial governments had already demanded of the National Reconstruction Bureau for reviving the Local Government Ordinance 1979, which was far better than the present LGS. Instead of making amendments in this system, it is believed that incorporating a few positives of the PLGO in the 1979 system would be more effective," he said

With the restoration of the office of the Divisional Commissioner, it is expected that a hierarchy for the implementation of the government's policies would be created because, earlier, various tiers of administration never let the government work speedily. "The next step will be restoring the magistracy in totality, as all the provinces had already agreed to this," said the source.

Prior to this decision, the Punjab government had already 'nominated' eight administrative secretaries as the Regional Coordination Officers through an administrative order. Its objective was also said to be having better liaison with the District Coordination Officers.

Earlier, the Punjab government had also amended the Punjab Maintenance Public Ordinance 1960 where the powers of the defunct District Magistrates (Deputy Commissioners) for detaining any person deemed to endanger the public safety and maintenance of the public order were given to the DCOs. Moreover, under the head of the delegation of power to the DCOs, the provincial government could order the DCO exercise the power - 'to arrest and detain suspected persons' - of the government.

Covertly, since the present government took power in the Punjab, the DCOs have been given powers to curb the 'over-doings' of the District Nazims, even giving under the PLGO. "Obviously, with the Chief Executive protecting you, any officer will be more confident and powerful in his purview of implementing the orders and using his administrative powers, even not falling within his ambit," said a senior officer.
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