Sunday, May 8, 2011

SFC favours more power for DPCs

by N.J. Nair
For balanced development
Evolve norms for asset management, government told
Financial management key to reformation

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The fourth State Finance Commission (SFC) has stressed the need for strengthening the District Planning Committees (DPCs) and evolving norms for the maintenance and management of road and non-road assets of civic bodies.

Official sources told The Hindu here that the second report of the commission headed by M.A. Oommen, which was submitted to the government on March 31, laid thrust on restructuring civic bodies and sought to integrate financial devolution with reforms.

While the first report focussed on the devolution package, the second part aimed at complementing it with a comprehensive reform package.

Empowerment of the DPCs was imperative for drawing up scientific district plans as it would pave the way for a balanced development of the State and also addressed regional imbalances, sources said.

Along with the devolution of powers and funds to the local self-government institutions, the State had witnessed institutional decentralisation too. Schools, taluk hospitals, public health centres, roads and other assets had all been handed over to local self-government institutions, sources said.

Maintenance of the transferred assets had thus become a social responsibility of civic bodies. Creation of an asset inventory and mapping of road and non-road assets using Geographical Information System (GIS) had been mooted for setting up a dynamic asset database, they said.

The asset inventory should be prepared in the current financial year itself. Though the government had framed and approved an asset management policy, it had not been executed. Hence the commission had recommended the government to evolve norms for asset management and maintenance.

Financial management was the key to reformation. Budget presentation, at present, was only a one-day exercise in civic bodies.

As in the case of the Central and State governments, local bodies should consider budget as an instrument for financial control.

Budget manual

They should prepare a budget manual, create separate heads for various purposes, and ensure strict compliance to them. This financial discipline was expected to augment their functional efficiency, sources said.

The commission had proposed to strengthen the office of the Ombudsman for Local Self-Government Institutions and increase the number of members suitably for raising its public accountability. The Green Kerala Express reality show, which showcased the best practices in civic bodies, was demonstrated before the commission too. The commission had listed the best practices of panchayats in various realms so that it could be either replicated or inspired others to go in for more creative pursuits that would empower the decentralisation process, sources said.

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