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Strengthening local governments

As the process of decentralisation speeds up, the need to strengthen local government has become ever so urgent. For the roots of democratic culture to dig deep into the consciousness of the communities, strong and vibrant system of local governance has to be nurtured. When governments at the grassroots fail, citizens become disillusioned with the government’s development plans, activities, and efforts.

Implementation of development plans and rendering critical services to the people rests on the efficiency and effectiveness of the local governments manned by a few individuals. Gewog administrative officers (GAO) play a critical role. As part of permanent bureaucracy, GAOs are critical for the smooth functioning of gewog administrations. More importantly, they provide continuity to the gewog administration and support the local government in planning, implementing and monitoring local development plans and programmes. However, high attrition rate among GAOs has led to weakening of the local governance system, affecting the service delivery at the grassroots.

There is a need to look at why we have shortage of GAOs today. Factors like perks and privileges play significant role in making jobs attractive. Currently, there is a power conflict between gups and graduate who serve under them. The measures RCSC and home ministry took to address the shortage of GAOs by circumscribing their freedom to change career did not help. It was a poorly thought-out recourse. That is why the Department of Local Governance (DLG) had to recruit 30 GAOs last year.

A more stable and effective structural arrangements is what is needed. With the rapid pace of socioeconomic development and political reforms taking place in the country, especially in terms of furthering functional and fiscal decentralisation to local governments, the role of GAOs has become significant. Recent AAC reports have found that the highest number of corruption complaints were from the local governments. With greater devolution of powers, responsibilities and resources to the local levels of government, corresponding transfer of corruption opportunities can only be expected. That is why strengthening the position of GAO and local government itself is monumentally significant.

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