Proposed amendment seeks more powers for Bahraini municipal councillors


Deputy Jawad Fairooz from Al Wefaq bloc , who has submitted the proposal to amend the municipalities law, said that the new law would include a new hierarchy in the Ministry of Municipalities and Agriculture Affairs.


“This proposal would tackle the issues that the councillors have been facing for several years. Their incomes have been increased and now according to this proposal they would be treated at par with the undersecretary’s in position and protocol. They would be given car and travel allowance and would be covered by social insurance.”


The MP also pointed out that the councillors face difficulties when they complete their tenure and return to their old jobs. He said that the councillors who complete their four-year terms would also be covered by the proposal.


The Vice Chairman of the Central Municipal Council, Abbas Mahfood from Al Wefaq bloc, who was also one of the members present when the proposal was initially drafted, told the Tribune: “This proposal would draw the role the councillors play in the ministry and the role of the ministry with other departments. The biggest problem that we face is that of decision-making and then getting approval from the ministry.


Mahfood said that the councillors have to wait for an approval from the minister until they can go ahead with the projects. He said that the minister has a right to reject a proposal and send it to the council stating a valid reason for the decision within 15 days. “There are many decisions that are still pending and we have not received any reply. According to the law, if we do not receive any information within the stipulated period (15 days), it means that the decision is approved. The advisors at the ministry now reply stating that the reason is ‘under study’. This is not a yes or no.” Mahfood said.


According to a clause in the proposal the councillors can take decisions if they are not given a valid reason within 15 days. He said that they can take the legal course of action if the ministry objects to the decision taken by the council.


Speaking about the decision by the Minister of Municipalities Affairs and Agriculture, Mansoor Hasan Bin Rajab, to delegate the councillors to ban on sale or purchase of property in their governorates, Abbas said: “The decision by the minister is misleading and there is a conflict on this issue. The real estate issue surfaced after the Governor of Muharraq announced the ban.


“According to the law, the councillors can halt temporary development works in the area stating the reason and duration. In addition, we have power to stop issuing building permits. Any citizen can purchase or sell property and the councils cannot stop them.”


By giving authorities to the councils it will ban parliament from practicing their supervisory power over the Government as MP’s can only question ministers. This shift of the real estate issue will result in the officials escaping from being questioned in parliament.


“I agree with this as they can raise their hands and say that they have delegated the work to us and we are accountable,” Mahfood said.
Fairooz, on the other hand, said that the minister of municipalities affairs and agriculture is in charge but cannot take decisions.


The establishment of Public Prosecutor and the appointment of judges dealing only with municipal issues are also included in the proposal.
Another clause in the new proposal is that there should be consultants appointed by the ministry in the five governorates.


The vice chairman informed the Tribune that there are no consultants to advise the councils on the decisions of planning and budget. The issue of demarcation of the constituencies is also considered in the proposal that will stress on the equal distribution of constituencies in terms of population.


“The constituencies are not marked according to the population. For example, in my area there are 14,000 people and in another constituency there are 4,000. In Isa Town only, there are three councillors and ideally there should be only one councillor representing the area,” Mahfood said.

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