by N.J. Nair
The State government has not yet accepted and implemented the second report of the fourth State Finance Commission submitted in March.
The commission headed by M.A. Oommen submitted its first report in January and the second report on March 31. The first report, that focussed on the devolution package for local self-government institutions, was summarily accepted and implemented by the previous Left Democratic Front (LDF) government. Before accepting the second report that comprised recommendations for complementing the devolution process with a comprehensive reform package, the government moved into the Assembly election mode and it was shelved.
The reforms proposed by the commission have become more significant following the trifurcation of the Local Administration Department. For, they were aimed at strengthening the decentralisation process and also improving the functioning of the civic bodies.
The commission had proposed to strengthen the District Planning Committees (DPCs) and formulate norms for the upkeep and management of road and non-road assets created by the civic bodies.
In order to ensure a balanced development of the State and address regional imbalances, it was proposed to equip the DPCs for preparing scientific plans for each district.
On devolving a lion's share of the Plan funds and an extensive range of powers to the civic bodies, the State had witnessed institutional decentralisation too.
The management of key institutions like schools, taluk hospitals, public health centres, roads and other assets were also handed down to the local governments. Maintenance and management of the institutions thus became their social responsibility.
Creation of an asset inventory in the current financial year and mapping of road and non-road assets using the Geographical Information System has been recommended for setting up a dynamic asset database.
After apportioning substantial sums for laying roads and constructing buildings, they are left in disuse and ruin. Creation of a database was considered as a practical solution to such problems. Moreover, the asset policy of the government has not been implemented so far.