The world is shifting day by day and the political system undergoes change over the decade. In spite of the unprecedented economic growth, the world has an escalating number of poor where living conditions are commonly pitiable with a major part of their population and having partial access to quality and reasonable basic services such as health, education, water and sanitation. Bangladesh is a country where this is very common to mass people. The government is committed to establishing a strong local institution at every level along with active participation of elected representatives in administration and development programs. But the local government of Bangladesh is in a tricky situation from its genesis especially in respect to fiscal sustainability. Meanwhile, local government units hardly engage non-state actors in public policy making and management of societal affairs. A significant number of development and service oriented programs are implementing by local government division (LGD) for poverty alleviation and well-being of rural people while the participation of all stakeholder is not yet ensured (Hossain, 2014). Development projects are formulated and implemented by LGD at local government level for making life more comfortable, sound and meaningful where poverty reduction, human resource development and creating employment opportunities given more emphasis. LGD also organize training for elected representatives to enhance knowledge and efficiency while there is no program at the local level for a citizen to participate actively in decision making as well as budgeting. The now-a-day a system has been introducing to evaluate the performance of local government to enhance their capacity, accountability, transparency and healthy competition among LGIs. Based this they also have given additional allocation and award for the results of performance evaluation. Though, local government has a great number of responsibilities. The council members, in many cases, are not aware of their responsibilities. And, the communities have low expectations from them. Women members, in Bangladesh, are excluded from governance (Aminuzzaman, 2010 and Hossain, 2014) while women are the major part of development (Hossain, 2015). The local government has to depend on the central government to implement their leading activities. However, it has own sources of revenue which are finite. LGIs in Bangladesh are very feeble in service delivery due mainly to low level of capital in the local government bodies and absence of participatory decision-making in governance.
Local Government Structure in Bangladesh (Categories and Hierarchies)
The rural/regional local government as proposed by the latest commission on local government would have three tiers:Urban areas have a separate set of local governments. The eleven largest cities have a City Corporation status, while the rest are known as Pourashavas or Municipalities, which again are classified according to financial strength.In addition, a large number of small urban centers are administered under the Union Parishad system of (rural) local government. Some urban centers have a fairly large population but have not yet been declared a Municipality and therefore also remain under Union Parishad management.The development philosophies of Bangladesh is the quest for institutional strategy at the local level that mingles twofold aspirations of strengthening participatory development at grass-root and building local governments as key vehicles of local democracy and service delivery (Rahman and Ahmed 2015, Hossain 2016 ). A government with more attention to the society welfare that was going to implement through fiscal decentralization policy and government reforms became intensely global in the development process in the 1990s. As we all know, local government is given legal recognition in the constitution by the act of parliament or relevant provisions (Kahn, 1996) but the gaps and weakness remain significant.
The scientist and civil society are agreed today about local government that it should be developed and effective because it is crucial for setting development agenda pro-poor, widening participation in decision making and priority settings. Local resources should be mobilized and directed in such a manner where they are needed by increased allocative efficiency (Rahman and Robinson, 2006). In Bangladesh, several policy documents, i.e., National Rural Development Policy and Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), have formulated and implemented in which local government has given special attention to developing mechanism which/to facilitate and create a favorable environment to provide the services that required by rural dwellers (Aminuzzaman, 2010).
Local government is recognized highly viable equipment through democratic processes and practices could establish and participatory development ensured. The creation of the local government bodies at every administrative level is condition provided by the constitution of Bangladesh. In reality, through various means of political and administrative control, the LGIs remain weak and perpetually dependent on central government. More or less all the reform efforts regarding to the local government, as a matter of fact, generally dealt with secondary issues, i.e., number and level of tiers, composition, relationship between tiers, share of functions among the tiers and central government etc., at the price of the core issues like devolution of authority for enabling LG to function in an autonomous manner. For example, staff management including mechanisms of effective accountability of assigned government officials and other staff whose recruitment are finally approved by the central government functionaries; the other issues, such as resource generation, management, and utilization remained out of the purview of the reform agenda. The central government exercises extensive financial and administrative control over the local government units in different ways. The annual budget of local government units is examined and approved by the central government agencies. Again, in the case of UP authority over the recruitment and payment of salaries of the official is held by the central government bureaucracy.
The LGIs are entitled to Annual Development Plan (ADP) block grants from the national government. The local government regulation holds strict instructions that the block grant must be used specifically in certain sectors determined by the central government. This pre- determined sector allocation seriously limits the scope of local level planning as well as compromises the flexibility of local bodies to utilize the financial resources for satisfying the immediate needs of the community. This also runs contrary to the concept of functional autonomy of the LGIs (Rahman, 2005).
Both human competence and logistics comprise the institutional capacity. Relevant studies reveal that the vast majority of the mayor/chairmen and councilors/members of LGIs lack of ample knowledge and understanding about the operational procedures and functions of these bodies. They are also ignorant of the complicated rules as regards to budgeting, planning, and resource management. For example, UPs has to maintain more than a hundred registers but it maintains very few of the records because it is gigantic job considering the managerial capacity. Furthermore, related institutions have inadequate facilities and the training modules are also obsolete. With inadequate physical facilities and office space, LGIs do not enjoy the real autonomy to solve the local problems.
The local governments have to depend on the central government to develop finance and resources mobilization. Similarly, in order to employ manpower or transfer their employees serving the local administration they are dependent on the central government. The key personnel who are related with development work of the municipality or union parishad also considered as the employees of the central government.
The local governments, mainly the smaller ones, do not even have adequate control and leadership over local affairs. The challenge here is to create appropriate conditions for the local authorities to function effectively. The efficiency of local authorities depends to a large extent on efficient and better-trained manpower. The LGIs in Bangladesh lack organizational capabilities to undertake and successfully complete the massive task of urban and rural development. One of the reasons for such a deficiency is the lack of trained manpower resources available to the local governments. Many of the local offices remain understaffed. The central government exerts full control over local level decisions (Rahman, 2005).
Local government bodies in Bangladesh are in steady shortage of funds. The sources of their income are generally taxes, rates, fees and charges levied by the local body as well as rents and profits accruing from properties of the local body and sums received through its services. Contribution from individuals and institutions, government grants, profits from investments, receipts accruing from the trusts placed with the local bodies, loans raised by the local body and proceeds from such services are another source of income governments may direct to be placed at the disposal of a local body. The most important source of own income of local bodies are property and holding taxes. And loans and voluntary contributions are rare. Nowadays, foreign or international project funds also contribute a significant share of a local budget.
The tax management of local bodies is weak, resulting in a poor collection (Chowdhury, 1997). There are many causes for this, including a poor assessment structure, lack of efficient manpower and legal issues. Corruption is another major reason for low collection of taxes. Another important reason is a large number of elected representatives are not interested in tax collection. Municipal expenditures are mainly geared towards physical infrastructure. Expenditures on social sectors are negligible (Chowdhury, 1997).