The caretaker Punjab government is mulling proposals to install deputy commissioners of the respective districts as administrators of the nine municipal corporations in the province, The Friday Times has learnt.
Municipal Corporations in Gujranwala, Gujrat, Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Faisalabad, Multan, Sahiwal, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan stand to be affected by this measure, which aims to promote "efficiency" in operations.
A summary in this regard has been prepared by Local Government and Community Secretary Dr Irshad Ahmad for Punjab Caretaker Chief Minister Syed Mohsin Naqvi. The document has been routed through the Law and Parliamentary Affairs Department for vetting and is expected to be tabled before the caretaker chief minister soon.
A senior official from the Local Government and Community department told The Friday Times on the condition of anonymity that the summary is pending with the interim chief minister awaiting his final nod. Thereafter, it will be placed before the provincial cabinet during its next meeting for final approval and implementation.
The draft summary notes that on October 24, 2022, several officers were appointed as Administrators of 11 municipal corporations constituted under the Punjab Local Government Act 2013 (PLGA-2013).
Dr Ahmed maintained that of the 11 municipal corporations, commissioners in the nine divisional headquarters were serving as administrators. This included municipal corporations in Gujranwala, Gujrat, Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Faisalabad, Multan, Sahiwal, Bahawalpur and D.G. Khan.
The two remaining municipal corporations, Sialkot and Murree, the respective additional deputy commissioners, are serving as administrators of municipal corporations.
"It is submitted that a commissioner is office-in-charge of general administration, revenue administration and principal representative of the government in the division," Dr Ahmed maintained.
"For this purpose, the commissioner of a division has extensive engagements and requires travelling to the district's falling in the division; the availability of the commissioner at municipal corporation district cannot be ensured at all times," the secretary noted.
Dr Ahmed further mentioned in the summary that the Punjab Local Government Act, 2022 (PLGA-22) was notified in the Punjab Gazette on November 16, 2022 and that Section 71 of the PLGA-2022 states that:
Power of the Chief Minister to appoint an administrator.–
"On expiry of the term of a Council, or otherwise pending the constitution of a new local government or a Council, the Chief Minister shall, by an order published in the official Gazette, appoint any of its officers to perform such functions and exercise such powers and authority of the respective local government as may be specified in that order."
Dr Arshad further pointed to Section 205 of PLGA-2022, which states:
Interim authorities and continuation of public services.– (1) All offices, agencies and authorities of the defunct local governments established under the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013 (XVIII of 2013) shall continue providing public services in their respective local areas without any interruption till such time new local governments are established under this Act.
He stated that the provincial government, via a notification dated February 22, 2023, had held in abeyance a prior notification dated January 17, 2023, on the appointment of administrators of local governments as envisaged under section 7 of the PLGA-2022, until a provincial government is elected and can decide the matter.
"Hence, offices of the 229 local governments established under the Punjab Local Government Act-2013 are continuing as per section 205 of PLGA-2022 under the control of administrators appointed vide notification published in Punjab gazette on October 24, 2022 and ratified from the provincial government on January 13, 2023," Dr Ahmed pointed out, adding that in pursuance of the directions passed by the Honourable Lahore High Court, Multan Bench vide its judgement dated December 23, 2022 in writ petition number 180004/2022.
A senior official at the Civil Secretariat told The Friday Times that once the Punjab interim chief minister approves the proposal, this measure will be extended beyond the nine municipal corporations to the other 229 local governments established across Punjab.