No bribes, no approvals|Service seekers forced to pay hefty to Rajuk officials for approval of building plans

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Service seekers need to pay at least Tk 1 lakh in bribe to Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkhya officials for getting approval of building plans in the capital, a New Age investigation has found. Depending on location and size of the buildings, the amount of bribe could increase to Tk 3 lakh, said many service seekers. Otherwise, service seekers said they were subjected to harassment by Rajuk officials who deliberately delay or deny permission even after requirements are fulfilled. In the case of special projects like buildings having 10 floors and above or more than 40 units, service seekers need to pay over Tk 5 lakh as higher officials are involved in permission process of such projects. The amount of bribe goes up to Tk 2 crore for ‘legalisation’ of major deviation or unauthorised extension of the permitted plan, service seekers and Rajuk officials said. Such approval of unauthorised extension for bribes was a flagrant violation of Building Code, which could lead to disaster if the city was struck by a major earthquake, construction experts warned. The buyers of such unauthorised flats, unaware of the shady deals between the developers and Rajuk officials, would suffer greatly in case of demolition of the buildings. Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh’s treasurer Sardar Md Amin said rates of bribe increased three times after the enactment of ‘Dhaka Mahanagar Building Rule’, though it was prepared with an aim to reduce corruption in Rajuk, the capital’s construction regulator. ‘A service seeker had to pay Tk 30,000 in bribe before the enactment of the rule, and now they pay at least Tk 1 lakh to Rajuk officials for plan approval of a small building,’ said Sardar adding that the bribe jumps up to Tk 2 crore for big projects. ‘Developers need to give bribes to complete projects on time avoiding unwanted hassles,’ he added. Rajuk officials prepare architectural and structural designs taking additional fees, developers said. Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman observed that corruption had been institutionalised in Rajuk. ‘We have repeatedly urged the government to break the syndicates active in Rajuk but have not seen any change that indicates involvement of high officials of Rajuk and the ministry concerned in the corruption process,’ Iftekhar said. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on April 30 warned that the government would show zero tolerance to those who would go for construction flouting the Building Code of Rajuk. Last year, Rajuk prepared a list of over 4,000 buildings, which had major deviation from the approved plan. Most of such buildings are located in Mirpur (1410) and Dhanmondi and Lalmatia areas (1022). Rajuk did not take any action against such deviation rather it helped inspectors and authorised officers to take bribes from the building owners. Rajuk even stopped the activities of the surveillance team that was formed after the enactment of the Dhaka Mahanagar Building Rule, which requires Rajuk to settle an application in 45 days. Developers and individual service seekers allege that zonal directors, authorised officers, assistant authorised officers and inspectors have different syndicates in Rajuk. Office staff and personal secretaries to high officials work as middlemen in shady dealings. Even Rajuk’s building construction committee members from external agencies such as Department of Architecture and Public Works Department take their share from the syndicates, Rajuk officials said. ‘I fulfilled all requirements and procedures but did not get permission even after approaching Rajuk officials several times in last one year, said a victim from Abdullahpur area on the fringe of the capital. ‘The officials concerned for Uttara zone asked me to make a deal, but I refused. Now, they simply avoid me,’ he said requesting anonymity. The owner of an eight-storey building at Basabo admitted that he had got permission after paying bribe. ‘Initially they refused to give permission for more than six storeys, but I managed to get permission for eight storeys after giving “service charge” to Rajuk officials. Of the eight existing zones under Rajuk, the rates of bribe are higher at Dhanmondi, Mirpur, Uttara, Gulshan and Ashulia. Since zonal directors like Waliur Rahman (Mirpur) and Shah Alam Chowdhury (Dhanmondi), authorised officers such as Mizanur Rahman (Uttara-Gazipur Zone), Ashraful Alam (Uttara and Mirpur Zone), Mahbubur Rahman (Gulshan-Banani Zone), Md Mobarak Hossain (Savar-Ashulia zone) and Rajuk’s architecture department director Nargis Tanzim Ara allegedly demand a hefty amount, their subordinates do not agree to accept less than Tk 3 lakh. Special projects require special permission from the director (development control) and external members from Institute of Architects Bangladesh, Bangladesh Institute of Planners and Institutes of Engineers of Bangladesh and so the rate of bribe for such projects is more than Tk 5 lakh, said reputed developers and Rajuk officials. For legalisation of the deviation or approval of unauthorised structures, the rate of bribe is several times higher, the officials said. Authorised officer Mizanur Rahman denied the allegations. ‘Service seekers should directly contact me instead of approaching any middleman.’ He also refuted the allegation that he had approached member estate M Abdul Hai for legalising the unauthorised extension of nine floors of FR Tower on Kemal Atartuk Avenue at Banani. Architecture department director Nargis Tanzim Ara refused to talk to New Age while member estate Md Abdul Hai, the immediate member development control, , said he was not aware of the FR Tower case. Both the directors (development control) Md Golam Mostafa and Sheikh Zahid Hasan Faruque claimed they were not involved in corruption. A racket of lower-tier officers and brokers might take bribes giving misleading information to the service seekers, they said. Waliur, Shah Alam, Ashraf and Mobarak also denied the allegations. Rajuk chairman GM Jainal Abedin Bhuiyan said he would revive the monitoring committee soon. ‘We would serve notice to the owners of said 4000 buildings who deviated from original plans,’ he said adding that he would take action against the racket of brokers and corrupt officials. Housing secretary Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah said he was aware of corruption in Rajuk. ‘Responsibility also lies with us. But, we are taking steps to reduce corruption.’

Source: New Age