The State government, in view of the financial implications, has deferred a decision on the Fourth State Finance Commission's recommendation that a three-member ombudsman for local bodies be formed and an exclusive investigation wing be set up for it. Currently, there is only one Ombudsman.
The commission, headed by M.A. Oommen, economist, in its second report, has recommended that the office of the Ombudsman be expanded by appointing a serving or retired High Court judge, a retired or serving government secretary, and an eminent public person, considering the steep increase in the number of cases being filed at the office.
A joint selection process by the government and the Leader of the Opposition has been proposed to ensure the credibility of the office. It has been suggested that the special investigation team be formed with police and civilian officers.
The government's action-taken report on the Finance Commission recommendations suggested that a decision on these proposals has been deferred and the Local Self-Government Department has been directed to examine them in consultation with the Finance Department.
Chief executive
The commission's recommendation for appointing a chief executive in every grama panchayat has been rejected. The chief executive's post has been proposed to be above the secretary's rank, with a projected annual expenditure from the new post being Rs.40 crore. Though it is expected to have efficiency gains, the proposal has been rejected considering the financial implications. It has been proposed to upgrade the panchayat secretary's post by fixing MBA or equivalent managerial qualifications and appointing competent officers. Once the serving secretaries retire, a fixed number of posts will be filled through direct recruitment.
The proposal for forming an independent audit commission for civic bodies has been put off for a thorough scrutiny. This proposal has been mooted considering the functional autonomy granted to the civic bodies. The Local Fund Audit Department has been proposed to function as the nucleus of the commission. The government has directed the Finance Department to examine the proposal in consultation with Local Self-Government Department.
To address the revenue loss of civic bodies, the commission has suggested raising the profession tax ceiling to Rs.10,000 with a permission for a 50 per cent increase every five years. A decision on this has been put off since the rates suggested appeared to be high. The department has been directed to reach a conclusion with an intimation to the Finance Department.
A decision on the recommendation for adapting the public participation law, a reform mandated by the Centre under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewable Mission, as relevant to the State and incorporating it in the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act and the Kerala Municipality Act has been put off for a feasibility study, the report says.