Functions of Municipalities

A-    Mandatory and optional functions of municipalities

Functions of municipalities may for convenience be categorized as mandatory and optional though the law makes no distinction. Land development, water and sewer, waste management, cemeteries and fire-fighting are mandatory functions of municipalities. No other organization but the municipality is in charge of such services the failure of which will plunge the entire urban life into chaos.


Municipalities also have optional functions for which they are authorized but not held accountable. For example, the Ministry of National Education is essentially in charge of the construction and maintenance of state schools. Likewise, there are central government ministries or agencies that are in charge of, for example, social services and social aid, reducing poverty. Municipalities however may make up for the shortcomings of the central government.


B-     Major mandatory functions of municipalities

a-      Land development

It is the most important function of municipalities to make land development plans and supervise buildings in the cities. In Turkey, municipalities have the full authority to make and implement land development plans. However, the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization has limited powers to make and amend land development plans for the large-scale investments of the central government; the Ministry of Culture and Tourism does so for tourism regions, and the Housing Development Administration for urban regeneration projects.


Land development plans made by municipalities should conform to regional plans and higher scale environmental plans if any made by the central government. The Regulation on Making and Amending Land Development Plans was amended in 2013, and the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization has since then been monitoring land development plans and amendments thereto.


Land development plans involve two stages of making; where in the first stage master plans of 1/25,000 or 1/5,000 scales are prepared to outline the land use and building conditions. The second stage involves making of implementation plans of 1/1,000 scale specifying the building conditions on the basis of landlots. Implementation plans also mark the social facilities, urban roads, housing units, work places, social and cultural facilities.


In the case of metropolitan municipalities, the metropolitan municipality first makes the higher scale master plan; then district municipalities prepare, in compliance with the said master plans their implementation plans subject to approval by the metropolitan council.


Metropolitan municipalities oversee the implementation plans of district municipalities as well as have the power to inspect the implementation of such plans.


District municipalities have the power to issue building licenses in accordance with land development plans. They are also authorized to inspect the buildings, and impose sanctions on buildings that contravene land development plans and design projects.


An urban regeneration initiative has been launched for the buildings constructed in the 1970s when the land development planning and supervision were not so effective and intensive migration occurred from the rural areas to cities. These buildings with poor infrastructure and low resilience against earthquake are now being torn down and replaced by modern buildings.


  b-     Infrastructure

It is a major function of the municipalities to build, maintain and repair urban roads, walkways, squares and parks. Metropolitan municipalities are in charge of roads of 12 meters or wider, large parks whereas district municipalities are in charge of smaller roads and parks.


c-      Transport

Urban public transport is in the remit of municipalities, or metropolitan municipalities in the case of metropolises. Municipalities must first make a transport master plan that outlines the residential areas, business and logistics areas and main lines of transport. Public transport considerations are also marked on the transport master plan.

Urban public transport services are delivered by metropolitan municipalities and usually subsidized. Where municipalities are unable to realize by their own means such public transport investments as a subway system or rail system, they may outsource by the build-operate-transfer model. To date, only a few metropolises were able to construct such systems. Some others started the construction of subway lines, but were unable to complete and had eventually to transfer to the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

Where municipalities are unable to provide all urban transport services, transport lines are leased to companies or private persons who operate under the supervision of the municipality. Municipalities are also oversee taxis, i.e. fare schedules, stops and operating conditions etc.


d-     Water and sewer

The national water policy is formulated by the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs. The General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works supply potable and non-potable water to large cities; however it is the task of municipalities to operate the urban water distribution system, and treat waste water. In the case of metropolitan municipalities, the Water and Sewer Administration as an affiliated entity of the municipality delivers water and sewer services.

Water and sewer administrations receive an apportionment from the state tax revenues on the basis of city population.


e-      Waste management

In the case of metropolitan municipalities, the Water and Sewer Administration is responsible for waste water management. Users of urban water are usually charged a fee for waste water at about the half rate of the supplied water.

Most cities have waste water treatment facilities. The waste water from about 70% of the municipal population is treated.

Many municipalities fail to pay for the cost of energy used to treat waste water. To encourage waste water treatment, the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization covers the half of energy costs for the said facilities.

Municipalities are charged with collecting, sorting, recycling and landfilling the solid waste. As a corollary of this responsibility, metropolitan municipalities must first prepare a solid waste management plan.

In the 30 provinces with two-tier municipal structure, district municipalities collect domestic waste, and metropolitan municipalities performs all other tasks related to waste.

Some municipalities have successfully implemented waste management involving projects of recycling, power generation and compost from waste.


f-      Fire-fighting

Fire-fighting departments of municipalities discharges services of fire protection, fire-fighting and rescue. In recent years, particularly in large cities fire-fighting departments have been reinforced by staff, vehicles and equipment. Fire-fighting departments have no separate legal personality or budget.

Fire-fighting departments in metropolitan municipalities are organized at department level; in other municipalities it is established as a branch.

Fire-fighting departments assist the Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD), a central government agency, in the case of traffic accidents and post-disaster rescue services.


g-      Other functions

Municipal services are not limited to land development, water and sewer, urban public transport, infrastructure, waste management and fire-fighting. Municipalities deliver many other services of local and common nature.

Municipalities issue licenses to and inspect all work places within municipal boundaries.

Cemeteries and funeral services are among the most important functions of municipalities.

Services that are not mandatory but generally provided by municipalities include reducing poverty, education, culture and sports, social aid, skills and occupational training courses, home care for the poor and sick, construction and maintenance of state schools.

Municipalities deploy the municipal police, an unarmed enforcement force, to discharge municipal duties.


C-    Concessions

The Municipality Law gives the following services as concessions to municipalities:

-        Supply of potable, non-potable and industrial water, removal of waste water and storm water;

-        Urban public transport;

-        Collecting, sorting and landfilling solid waste.

Municipalities may transfer such concessions to market operators not to exceed 49 years.

Since it has significant implications, the draft concession agreement is subject to the review of the Council of State (the highest administrative court) and the transfer of concession needs to be approved by the Ministry of Interior. The agreement on concession transfer must protect the rights of the administration and consumers, ensure the sustainability and accountability of the service.

Municipalities may also transfer public transfer services to third parties by licensing or leasing transport routes not to constitute a concession or monopoly. In practice, many municipalities take a mixed approach where they carry out the transport service at some routes, and lease some other routes to private persons and companies.

Collection of domestic solid waste is commonly outsourced to private companies. Some municipalities have already transferred the services of power generation from solid waste and landfilling for certain time.

Although the Law permits, it is not common to transfer water and sewer services to private companies.


D-    Build-operate-transfer model

Municipalities may engage others through the build-operate-transfer model for investments requiring significant financing and advanced technologies including mainly such concessionable services as water and sewer, public transport and waste management. To implement the model, the concession agreement needs to be approved by the relevant ministry.


E-     Outsourced services

As a result of economic liberalization, it is now possible to outsource many municipal services. Market operators are engaged usually through tender procedures for the construction of infrastructure such as roads, water, sewer, walkways, and bridges. Municipalities also engage market operators by outsourcing such functions as information processing, cartography, planning, maintenance of parks, street cleaning, waste collection, office cleaning etc.

Municipalities have many reasons to outsource numerous services to the market operators rather than executing by in-house staff.

The first reason is to increase efficiency in resource deployment. It is believed that services are more efficiently delivered through the market where competition exists.

The second reason is the limits imposed by the Law on personnel expenditures which shall not exceed 30% of the municipal budget (40% for municipalities with population smaller than 10,000). Where this threshold is exceeded, the municipality cannot recruit new staff. The payments to the labour procured from market operators are accounted as service procurement, not personnel expenditures.

The third reason is that recruitment is subject to examinations administered by the central government. Municipalities are reluctant to engage in the central examination and interviewing procedures.

The fourth reason is that municipalities are subject to the personnel law to which civil servants are subject under which civil servants are entitled to work through the age of 65 regardless of efficiency.

Such restrictions steer municipalities away from recruiting and employing own staff to the market. Consequently, the personnel expenditures of municipalities (15.8% on average) is far lower than those of the central government (27.6%).