Introduced for the first time in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Merged Areas (MA), the Local (LG) Government Act served as the tabula rasa for establishing a governance system that is responsive, collaborative, and robust to meet the evolving needs of people as the region continues to develop. It was a change much welcomed by residents of the region as reflected through their participation in the elections, both as candidates and the voters.
The two-tier LG system started taking form after the elections concluded in March 2022. So far, nine provincial departments, including local government, social welfare, sports and youth affairs, agriculture, livestock and fisheries, public health engineering, population welfare, primary and secondary education, and on-farm water and soil conservation, have been devolved to tehsil level. But the bigger challenge has been to ensure the people running the newly established local governments are well-informed and on the same page about the working of the two-tier system. On that front, the KP government through its Local Government, Elections & Rural Development Department (LGE&RDD) and the Local Governance School (LGS) partnered with the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Merged Areas Governance Project (MAGP) and conducted several trainings with support from United States Agency for International Aid (USAID).
Most recently, 46 tehsil administration officials – which included officers and staff members from tehsil municipal administrations (TMA) and the nine devolved departments – from Bajaur and Mohmand districts teamed up for two five-day capacity-building trainings, one for each district, in Peshawar. They received comprehensive knowledge about the KP LG Act and the Rules of Business, the budget call circular and its importance, the role they play in the LG system and the authority they have in preparing and presenting the budget for approval on tehsil-level.
Dr Abdul Razik Safi, Director for Livestock in Mohmand district, while sharing his thoughts on the impact of the capacity-building training, said, “Previously, our cashier would bring a Performa and fill it for us. We would glance over it and sign it.” He explained that it was only at the training that his questions regarding the budget call circulars were answered. “We didn’t know what it was, where it was issued from, who authorized it and what were we supposed to do with it,” Dr. Safi explained. “Now we know that it is a crucial document that sets the entire year’s spending and prepares us to meet our tehsil’s needs.”
Reflecting on his experience at the training, TMO Mohammad Javid Khan, who oversees Lower Mohmand and Bazai tehsils in district Mohmand, found the practical component of the training particularly useful. “We were provided laptops for the training and we built a budget from scratch. This exercise is going to be very helpful when I go back,” he said, adding that he also appreciated how the workshop connected the TMA officers and representatives of the devolved departments who were previously unfamiliar with each other. “There was a lot of ambiguity and frustration before as we did not know each other and were not on the same page about a lot of things. This workshop brought us together and transformed us into a team,” he said.
Speaking to the participants of the trainings, Raluca Eddon, UNDP MAGP Programme Manager, said the workshops were organized in close partnership with the LG department, with the objective of laying the groundwork for building strong and responsive local governance system in MA. “We visited Bajaur and Mohmand in July and met with representatives from TMAs and devolved departments to understand how we can better support them in running local governments effectively. Going forward, we will be working closely with the Local Government Department, the TMAs, district administrations, and of course, the village and neighbourhood councils to strengthen the local governance system.”
Another participant at the training, a senior tehsil municipal officer (TMO) from Upper Mohmand tehsil, Fazal Subhan said capacity building for TMA officers and other devolved department officials in MA are critical as the two-tier system is new to them. “The knowledge and clarity we gained in these five days about the tehsil-level budget making process is incomparable to how little we knew in our years of service in the system,” he said, emphasizing on the need for more trainings to improve coordination between TMAs, devolved departments and elected representatives.