Planning and Implementation of Development Projects
CCs have been vested with a long list of functions delegated to them by the central government under the Act, 2009 (amended in 2011). These functions can be broadly grouped into six categories: public health, public welfare, regulation, public safety, public works, and development activities. Other laws also have assigned these same functions to different entities (e.g., Central Government Line Ministries, Local Government Engineer Department, Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority, National Housing Authority, Road Transport Authority, Local Development Authority, and so on), which are generally under central government or joint control. On a positive side, Chittagong CC engages in some creative/proactive functional responsibilities as well.
The Act, 2009 (amended in 2011) allows every CC to undertake any development plan and its implementation under the approval of the Government’s Local Government Division (LGD). In practice, the subjection of the CC to the purview of the LGD leaves limited space for autonomy to the CCs. The third Schedule of the Act lists 28 types of activities of the corporation, but little scope exists for the corporation to undertake any major step that may impact the lives of city dwellers in a major way. Central government agencies are mainly responsible for major urban services. Meanwhile, local people see the elected representatives of the municipal corporation as the designated authority to meet their needs, although they do not have the statutory power to do so. What share of the 28 recurrent activities within the 6 broad categories is actually undertaken by the CC?
Although the CC has been vested with the power to formulate plans and budget, there is also the provision that requires approval of the Government. Thus, they are not in a position to plan everything in accordance with their priorities and needs. When it concerns the issue ofprocurement, however, the CC enjoys greater autonomy. The responsibility for infrastructure planning and provision of services is [at best] de facto shared by center and ULG; on top of that, the ULG does not have meaningful control over planning and prioritization.
There is a significant difference between what is written in the law and what is happening on the ground. The legislative framework is unclear or inconsistent, or not fully adhered to. In addition to legal central control, CC suffers from several problems in relation to allocation and disbursement of funds and grants if the mayor belongs to the opposition political party. This is indicative of the existence of patron-client political culture (Panday 2007, 2011).
Some functions of CCs overlap with the jurisdiction of other agencies, which creates confusion. For instance, a CC is empowered to formulate a master plan, including the provisions to develop land and regulate building construction in the city. On the other hand, RAJUK (Capital Development Authority) is responsible for the formal physical planning and development activities for housing, commercial, and industrial use in Dhaka. However, there is no organizational and functional relationship between RAJUK and DNCC and DSCC at present. Thus, operational autonomy of CCs has been hindered through several provisions of the law. Similarly, some services are delivered by Dhaka WASA, National Housing Authority, Road Transport Authority, Local Development Authority, and so on. At best, these entities are jointly owned by the center and CC. Others are fully within the purview of central government.