Dr Iftekharuzzaman said a new regulatory body needs to be formed
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) says Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) and corruption have come to mean one and the same thing.
“It is rare to find anyone getting services from Rajuk without bribes. Rajuk officials, brokers, and service recipients are in a tripartite collaboration. The bribes too are taken in specific amounts based on contracts," said TIB Executive Editor Dr Iftekharuzzaman.
"Rajuk is synonymous with corruption," he added.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman made the statement unveiling a research paper by TIB, titled "Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK): Governance Challenges and Way Forward," at a press conference in Dhaka yesterday.
In the new research, the corruption watchdog found overwhelming evidence of corruption against the Capital Development Authority.
Rajuk, he said, has turned into a development and commercial organization instead of a regulator. “Following the law, another regulatory body needs to be formed, which would work as an independent organization.”
There is a communication gap between Rajuk board and management, due to which the organization lacks accountability and transparency, the TIB head added.
Terming Rajuk a revenue-earning agency, he said: “Its self-incriminating activities contradict its main responsibility. Instead of securing the Detailed Area Plan [DAP] and other plans, Rajuk has violated them."
Legal barriers of Rajuk
The research found that there are inconsistencies in different laws and rules when it comes to fixing the highest permitted height for multi-story buildings.
In the Bangladesh National Building Code 2006, it is 20m, 23m in the National Fire Protection Association standards, and seven stories according to the Fire Prevention and Extinguishing Rules 2003.
TIB said: “A ten-story building [especially from sixth to ninth floor] is beyond fire safety.”
TIB also expressed concern about the severity of punishment for the violation of design as per Building Construction Act, 1952, where a person may be fined TK50,000 or seven years in prison, or both.
Lack of institutional capacity
Of all the approved posts at Rajuk, it has 40.1% posts vacant, including posts like chief engineer, chief town planner, and city planner.
Although the organization runs on its own revenue and government grants, it had Tk485 crore for 2017-18, and gained Tk2,187 crore in surplus.
The report reads: “Analyzing Rajuk’s income and expenditure, it can be found that despite being a service provider, it has become a profit making organization.”
Two parliamentary standing committee members of Ministry of Housing and Public Works have personal construction businesses, which TIB said is a clear “conflict of interest.”
According to the report, board members have failed to hold its officials accountable.
It also said no punishment was handed down to the Rajuk authority involved in corruption.
TIB claimed Rajuk’s field level officials’ lack of monitoring work such as land surveys, auditing building, parks, lakes, and open fields, has led to the violation of laws.
Drawing an example, it named the Police Officers’ Housing Society project which grabbed a portion of the Boalia canal.
TIB also stated that persons with political influence and muscle power often barred Rajuk officials from auditing a construction site when they violate rules.
In a project execution process, only the opinions of local politician’ and businesspersons were valued, and not that of locals.
‘Corruption an open secret’
The report states, without bribes no clearance and building designs are approved.
Quoting one Rajuk official, TIB said: “The whole process of approving design is corrupted. It’s an open secret.”
The TIB report said Rajuk takes a lot of money in bribes for promoting and transferring officials to a “convenient place and post.”
TIB said bribes ranging from Tk30,000 to Tk1 crore are given for promotions, while Tk2 to 2.5 lakh are given for a “convenient transfer.”
It further said, Rajuk officials fix the amount of bribe for giving clearance of land and design approval based on the size of the land, use of it, location, type or profession of service recipients, and the number of owners of a land, among other factors.
How much bribe for what
Although Rajuk is legally bound to charge a small fee it illegally charges several fold more for providing services.
How much bribes for what
Amounts charged illegally
Tk2,000 to Tk5,000
To show the width of the road
Tk20,000 to Tk30,000
Clearance for 10 storey building
Tk15,000 to Tk5 lakh
Construction for 10 storey building
Tk3 lakh to Tk10 lakh
Design approval for 10 storey building
Tk50,000 to Tk10 lakh
Design approval for over 10 stories
Tk15 lakh to Tk40 lakh
For special projects, Rajuk is bound to charge TK83,000 to Tk3.6 lakh legally. But it charges Tk15 lakh to Tk2 crore illegally.
Although no fees are fixed for inspecting the site for approval, Rajuk illegally charges the owner or the real estate developer, anywhere from Tk5,000 to Tk1 lakh.
Also, pressured by people with political influential and muscle power, Rajuk has approved a few private projects such as the Jol Shiri project, the Bashundhara project, and the Eastern Housing Project, among others.