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Empirical case-study of VDC Secretary absenteeism and related service delivery in 45 VDCs in rural Nepal - Issue 3
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Democratic and decentralized governance is increasingly seen as a necessary and enabling condition for inclusive development and an important means to achieve targets such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is also an end in itself as it espouses the values, policies and institutions that are guided by core human rights principles of equality, inclusiveness, and accountability. Decentralized democratic governance at sub-national level helps improve and accelerate service delivery, tailor them to the needs of the population, increase ownership, and enhance the capacities of the poor to contribute to decision making processes. Administrative decentralization and service delivery at local level in Nepal began in the 1990s, culminating in the enactment of the Local Self-governance Act(LSGA) and its rules(LSGR) in 1999. This legislation empowered local bodies to provide services and carry out local development initiatives with their own resources and grants from the government.The LSGA introduced a three tier local governance in the country. The District Development Committees(DDC) in all of Nepal’s 75 Districts are the top tier; 3,915 Village Development Committees(VDCs) in rural areas and 58 Municipalities in urban areas form the middle tier; and the Wards in both rural and urban areas form the lowest tier. The middle layer of VDCs and Municipalities are crucial as the principal drivers for local development. The LSGA stipulates that VDCs should be made up of 11 elected representatives:a Chairperson,a Vice Chairperson and nine Ward members (typically one member for each Ward), in addition to two nominated members (including at least one woman) who work as the executive committee of the VDC. A government appointed civil servant (VDC Secretary) administers VDC funds and activities. The Village Council, which includes all elected VDC and Ward officials as well as six nominated members, works as the general assembly of the VDC and is the ultimate authority to approve the VDC programme and budget. However, the decade long armed conflict in Nepal meant that no local elections were held when the last elected body’s term expired in 2002. While organizations of local elected bodies requested the then prime minister to extend the term with one year (in line with the LSGA), Deuba decided not to do so, nor did he fix a date for new elections. Consequently, since 2002 the VDCs have been operating under the guidance of the unelected VDC Secretary. Support to the VDC Secretary is in theory provided by an equally unelected Village Council that includes members of political parties, popularly known as ‘the seven party alliance’ before the CA election and as the ‘all party mechanism’ today. Although political party members do not have voting rights they wield considerable influence over VDC programmes and budgets through their relations with Local Development Officers (LDOs) and VDC Secretaries. The framework of the LSGA and subsequent regulations have empowered DDCs to approve the annual programmes for the health, education and agriculture sectors. However, both the district and lower level offices remain under the concerned ministry, administratively as well as financially. DDCs, in most cases,have just to ‘ceremonially’ approve the plan and budget. LSGA provisions regarding sectoral responsibilities are not always clear, and are not backed up by more detailed directives or decrees which would make a clearer distinction between the respective responsibilities of local governments and line agencies. Sector devolution has been slow and fitful, and often only reluctantly undertaken by line ministries.
UNRCHCO ,   (2011 )
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 UNRCHCO (UNRCO) : UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator Office (UN Resident Coordinator Office)
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