Parliament approves limiting councilors’ powers during transitional period

Parliamentarians wear masks to protect from the spread of the new coronavirus as they attend a sitting on May 26, 2020. (Photo/People's Majlis)

The Parliament, on early Tuesday, passed legislature submitted by top MDP lawmaker Hassan Latheef on ensuring the smooth running of the administrative districts of the country, which will significantly limit the powers of interim councilors until a fresh election is held.

The Maldives was scheduled to hold the local council elections on April 4, but was forced to postpone the elections due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The term of incumbent councilors is set to expire on June 3, and the Parliament, in an attempt to prevent a legal vacuum has also approved a constitutional amendment to extend the term of incumbent councilors.

Councilors will continue to perform their duties until the coronavirus situation improves enough to hold fresh elections to elect new councilors.

The bill was passed with the vote of 73 MPs.

Hassan Latheef’s bill had originally established that councils will continue to receive all the powers they were entitled to under Section 8 of the Constitution and the Decentralization Act.

However, the Decentralization Committee, in its review of the bill, made significant amendments to the bill. The bill now establishes that after the term of the incumbent councilors expires, councils will be run by interim councilors and that those interim councils will have its powers checked.

Interim councilors will require authorization from the Local Government Authority (LGA) before they make decisions such as the donation or sale of a property or asset under the council’s jurisdiction, the lease of a property or asset under the council’s jurisdiction for more than a six-month period, taking loans, investing in public services, spending funds under the name of the people, passing supplementary budgets, changing the administrative structure of councils, or appointing or terminating employees.

Interim councils will be required to adhere to the Decentralization Act in utilizing its powers to provide public services unless in exceptional circumstances declared in the bill.

The bill also states that interim councils will be required to share income and expenditure records and records on assets and finance for the transitional period to LGA and Auditor General’s Office two days prior to the date for the local council elections declared by the Elections Commission.

If interim councils fail to have the legally required number of councilors for any reason, LGA is required to establish a guideline on how the council will continue to operate and share it with the relevant council.