The district is one of the elements of the regencies/cities that implement government affairs that are part of the authorities of the region, and also perform assistive tasks. The district is regulated in detail by Government Regulation No. 19 of 2008 concerning the District. However, after the enactment of Law No. 23 of 2014 on Regional Government, there have been no operational rules enacted governing the implementation of the district.
In general, discussion about the district has not received adequate attention. The district is regarded as an ambiguous government unit, being both an element of the higher government, and also a territorial unit at the same time. As stated in Law No. 23 of 2014, the regency/city is divided into districts, and the districts are divided into sub-districts or villages (Article 2, paragraph 2). The district itself is part of the territory of the regency/city, led by the district head (Article 1 point 24). However, the district head does not have the authority as does the regional head.
There have been ideas to eliminate districts from the chain of governance in Indonesia (de-layering), due to the duties and functions lacking clarity, being limited to coordination and supervision. Its presence is also considered to extend the chain of bureaucracy, or even “undermine” local autonomy at the village level.
Efforts to improve the districts have been done for a long time, one of which is through capacity building in the provision of public services, particularly administrative services, through PATEN (District Integrated Administrative Service), which is the agenda of the Ministry of Interior in implementing the functions of guidance and supervision of the local government. It is realized through the Minister of Interior Regulation No. 4 of 2010 on the District Integrated Administrative Service, which mandated that by the end of 2014 all districts in Indonesia would have implemented PATEN. But in reality, until the end of 2015, only 1,000 districts (14.3%) of the total of 7,000 districts have implemented PATENT, and in 2016, it was targeted that 3,500 districts (50% of the total number of districts) have the PATEN service.
The enactment of Law No. 6 of 2014 about Villages (Village Law) “forces” the government to rethink about the role of districts, mainly in order to encourage the self-sufficiency of the villages, through the facilitation and capacity building of the village administration. The purposes of the establishment of the Village Law are: a) encouraging initiative, movement, and participation of the village community to develop potentials and assets for the common welfare of the village; b) forming a professional, efficient and effective, open, and accountable village administration; c) improving public services for the people of the village in order to accelerate the realization of public welfare; d) improving the economy of the village community and address the disparity of national development; and e) strengthening village communities as the subject of development.