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Friday, February 23, 2024

The working of Provincial Councils – II

The Institute of Constitutional Studies (ICS) carried out a comprehensive study on the working of Provincial Councils in the 22 years of their existence.

 The senior consultants who conducted the evaluation are Prof. Ranjith Amarasinghe, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, University of Peradeniya Mr. Asoka Gunawardena, Former Chairman of the Finance Commission and former Secretary, Ministry of Provincial Councils, Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne, President’s Counsel and Prof. A. M. Navaratne Bandara, Head, Department of Political Science, University of Peradeniya.

 ICS published the evaluation report in all three languages under the title “Twenty Two Years of Devolution: An Evaluation of the Working of Provincial Councils in Sri Lanka (Institute for Constitutional Studies, Rajagiriya 2010). It has been released through Lake House Book Shop.

The Constitutional Framework

1. A person appointed as a Governor should not have been politically active for at least two years prior to being appointed and should not be from the same Province.

Politics of Devolving Power

1. Reconvene the All Party Conference established in 2006 to reach a national consensus on the modalities of strengthening the powers of Provincial Councils following the interim report submitted by the All Party Representative Committee (APRC).

Legal Issues

1. National policy on a matter set out in the Provincial List or Concurrent List should be formulated through a participatory process involving the Provincial Councils. The policy so formulated should be passed in Parliament in the form of framework legislation and all Provincial Councils shall operate within such framework. The practice of laying down national policy through decisions of the Cabinet of Ministers and Ministry circulars should be discontinued.

2. The Provincial Councils (Consequential Provisions) Act should be amended by extending its scope to matters set out in the Concurrent List and by providing that references to authorities in pre-1987 laws in respect of matters under the Provincial List and Concurrent List be deemed to be references to the corresponding provincial authorities only.

3. The Central Government should take a policy decision not to exercise executive power in relation to any devolved subject.

4. The Provincial Councils Act should be amended to provide for as follows:

(a) The Chief Secretary shall, subject to the direction and control of the Chief Minister, exercise supervision over departments and institutions of the Provincial Council assigned to the Chief Minister and exercise general oversight over all other departments and institutions of the Provincial Council.

(b) The Governor of a Province shall appoint the Secretaries to the Ministries of a Province and the Secretary to the Chief Minister, on the advice of the Chief Minister.

 (c) The Secretary to a Ministry shall, subject to the direction and control of the Minister, exercise supervision over the departments and institutions of the Provincial Council in the charge of the Minister.

(d) The appointment, dismissal and disciplinary control of Heads of Departments shall vest in the Board of Ministers, which shall exercise such powers after ascertaining the views of the Provincial Public Service Commission.

(e) The power of appointment, promotion, transfer, dismissal and disciplinary control of officers of the provincial public service shall vest in the Provincial Public Service Commission.

(f) The Board of Ministers of a Province shall provide for and determine all matters of policy relating to provincial public officers.

(g) There shall be an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal from decisions of the Provincial Public Service Commission.

5. Powers and privileges of Members of Provincial Councils should be provided by an Act of Parliament comparable to the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act.

6. The posts of Leader of Opposition, Leader of the House and Chief Whips of the ruling party and the opposition should be recognized by law.

Legislative Functions of Provincial Councils: Statute Making and Capacity Issues

1. The allocation of responsibilities among the two levels of government should be clarified without leaving room for any ambiguities.

2. Statute Drafting Units with the necessary human and material resources should be established in each of the Provincial Councils.

3. Measures to create greater awareness among the members of Provincial Councils of the importance of taking initiatives at the provincial level to make statutes should be adopted..

4. Ministerial Advisory Committees should strengthened be in such a way that they evolve as initiators of legislative measures at provincial level.

Fiscal Devolution: Operational Issues

1. Service delivery responsibilities of the central, provincial and local levels of the multilevel system should be clarified.

2. Where central funding is considered necessary in order to address a national service delivery needs, such funding should be channelled through the provincial or local levels as the case may be.

3. Following the principle of subsidiarity service delivery functions that can be more efficiently organized at the sub-national level should be assigned to the Provincial Councils and Local Authorities.

Centre/Province relations

1. The model of the constitutional head should be promoted as the appropriate model for the provincial Governor. Possible measures should be adopted in this respect include the appointment of Governors on merit criteria rather than on patronage basis, and consulting the Chef Minister in making the appointment.

2. National Land Commission should be established as laid down in the 13th Amendment. Provision should be made for representation/ consultation by the Provincial Councils in the central bodies that make policy decisions on matters that affect them e.g. National Finance Commission.

3. A body that permits the political leaders of Provincial Councils to meet with the leaders at the Centre formally and with some regularity should be established.

 4. Line Ministries should conduct their projects and extension work in the provinces through the agency of the Provincial Councils.

5. The field administration at the Divisional level should be brought under the Provincial Councils.

Provincial Public Administration  and the Public Service

1. The Constitution should be amended requiring the Centre and the Province to share power, resources and managerial functions falling within the subjects identified in the Concurrent List.

2. A nationally agreed proportion for sharing state revenue by the three-tiers of government should be established, allocating at least 25% of the State revenue to be shared by the Provincial Councils and the Local Governmental Institutions.

3. Administrative authority should be provided to the Provincial Public Service Commission to handle matters pertaining to personnel in the All Island Services or at least to make recommendations to the National Public Service Commission in that regard.

4. The Local Administration should be handed over to the Provincial Council, making it a Provincial subject as identified in the Constitution.

5. A Provincial Council Management Group should be established as recommended by the ARC in 1987 with provision to enable the members of the service to get transfers between provinces and after a certain number of years move into the Management Group in the Central Government.

6. Provisions should be made for nonexecutive cadres with adequate experience and academic qualifications to enter the Provincial Management Group through merit based promotions.

Local Government under devolution

1. The role and experience of local authorities as agents of democratic governance and conflict resolution should be studied with a view to strengthening its governance role as the primary tier of devolution.

2. The roles and responsibilities of the divisional secretariat and the local authority in respect of service delivery should be clarified.

3. Provincial Councils should work through Pradeshiya Sabhas as their agents in the delivery of local services especially in areas of local infrastructure, rural development, social services, women and children, environment etc.

4. Centrally funded local infrastructure development programmes should work through Pradeshiya Sabhas and provide allocations as items of income of the respective local authority.

5. Local authorities should be required to prepare medium term service delivery plans.

6. Service delivery responsibilities of local authorities should be reviewed and established on the basis of subsidiarity.

7. A core local government cadre transferable within the local government system within the Provincial Public Service should be esatblished.

8. Local authorities should be allowed to exercise responsibility for staffing within a framework of staffing norms and expenditure ratios.

9. The role and responsibility of the Provincial Commissioner of Local Government within the Provincial Council system should be re-defined.

10. A Local Government Service sub-committee should be established within the Provincial Public Service Commission.

11. Fiscal transfers to local authorities should be established as a separate channel of financial transfers so as to ensure greater certainty and predictability of financing.

12. Central transfers to local authorities should be restructured, away from gap-filling salary reimbursements to performance-based equalization transfers on a provincial basis.

13. Urban local authorities should be encouraged to explore new sources of financing through special purpose performance-based matching grants.



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