Public hearing is now institutionalized to ensure public accountability at UPs

January 17, 2022

The Local Government Division (LGD), under the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives of Bangladesh government, has issued a guideline in January 2022 to all Upazila Parishads (UPs) to institutionalize public hearings after the successful piloting by the Efficient and Accountable Local Governance (EALG) project of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The guideline, developed by LGD, with support from UNDP's EALG, called for holding the hearings fortnightly at the UP level and once a year at the ward level.

The key features of the guidelines are –

  • Each Union Parishad (UP) is required to hold a public hearing every 15 days and once in a year at the ward level, where the UP Chairman will conduct and Chair the hearing, listen to the people, and resolve problems; UPs must choose a date and notify people to attend the public hearing session in advance, which will include all line department officials.
  • The chairman will listen to the people's problems/complaints and take measures to resolve them. All line department officials must attend the public hearing; all issues expressed in the public hearing must be recorded in the register book; necessary actions must be taken to resolve difficulties, and the individual whose issue was resolved must be informed.
  • It also stated that at the public hearing session, both oral and written complaints must be considered, and the issues that correspond to the UPs, involving the relevant UP Chairman must resolve as soon as feasible. In addition, the Union Parishad's monthly meeting must address the public hearing sessions interventions, and the sessions will be monitored by DDLG and UNO to ensure that the public hearings are effective.

UNDP's EALG project has been working closely with the local government to organize the public hearing sessions and introduced them at the UP level in 2019 to enhance transparency and accountability of Union Parishads. A total of 104 public hearing sessions were organized from 2019 to 2021, with a high rate of resolving issues raised at the local level.

The EALG project, a joint initiative of UNDP and Local Government Division funded by the Swiss and Danish embassies, has been working in 18 Upazilas of Khulna, Chandpur, Faridpur, Patuakhali, Rangpur, Rajshahi, Netrokona, Sunamganj, and Cox's Bazar districts since 2018 to strengthen the capacities of local government.

Along with the Public Hearing Guideline, six other guidelines were approved in 2021: The Union Parishad Annual Reporting Guideline; the Upazila Parishad Annual Reporting Guideline; the Women Development Forum (WDF) Operational Guideline; the Upazila Parishad's 17 Committees Terms of Reference; Guideline of using 3% ADP allocation in Women Development Forum; and UP Revenue Allocation Guideline for Annual Report.

As part of the issuing of the guidelines, the project successfully advocates with the Local Government Division to accept and make them applicable for all UPs and UZPs. These policy shifts would help to enable the voice of the voiceless people to ensure no one is left behind.