RAJUK mired in corruption, finds study: TIB urges to form a separate influence-free regulatory authority to ensure good governance
Irregularities and corruption have become so rampant in Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) that the major body responsible for the development of Dhaka and corruption have become synonymous. Also, people do not get any service from RAJUK without paying bribe as it has become a mandatory part in all processes, says a recent study by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB).
“It is rare to find anyone getting services from RAJUK without bribes. Service-seekers has to get into a mandatory tripartite deal with RAJUK officials via brokers, where the bribe money changes hand at a fixed rate. The bribes too are taken in specific amounts based on contracts," said TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman in a press conference organized by TIB to release the study titled “‘RAJUK: Governance Challenges and Way forward’ at its Dhaka office on 29 January.
According to the study, bribery takes place in RAJUK based on contracts at the time of surveys as well as before, during and after the construction of buildings, and even at times of inspection by RAJUK officials although there are specific fees for approval of plans and other services. Bribe money amounting between Tk 200,000 and Tk 20 million has to be paid for building plan approval. However, the amount varies from individual service recipient to real estate developers. The amount of unauthorized payment made to the inspectors of buildings ranges from Tk 5,000 to Tk 100,000 for the service. The amount of unauthorized payment required for land clearance ranges from Tk 15,000 to Tk 80,000 for individuals and Tk 1.0 million to Tk 10 million for real estate companies.
The study, conducted between November 2018 and December 2019, aimed to identify the governance deficits, corruption, and irregularities in RAJUK, and detect legal, institutional and other challenges. In light of the overwhelming evidence of corruption and irregularities, the study also endeavored for the political economy of the corruption and irregularities persistent in the governance of RAJUK.
The study found that there are inconsistencies in different laws and rules when it comes to fixing the permitted highest height for multi-story buildings. Besides, the study found a deficiency of RAJUK’s ability to properly implement budget plans as the amount allocated is not spent fully. The study further observed that lack of transparency, accountability, participation, continued abuse of entrusted power, etc have also affected the overall governance of RAJUK severely, hampering the development of Dhaka. According to the report, since the approval of the Detailed Area Plan (DAP) in April 2010, it was revised 158 times till April 2018. It was alleged that DAP is defending the interests of developers, real estate businessmen, politicians, and other influential people by changing the class of land through a tripartite dispute. According to data obtained from the study, RAJUK has not enough manpower as 40.1 percent of its 1980 posts are vacant. The rate of working women is only 9.7 percent and allegations of irregularities and corruption also exist in recruitment, promotion, and transfer.
At the press conference, Fatema Afroz, Deputy Programme Manager; and Farhana Rahman, Programme Manager, both of the Research & Policy division and the researchers of the study presented the study report, accompanied by the research supervisor Abu Said Md. Juel Miah, Senior Programme Manager. Among others, Professor Dr Sumaiya Khair, Adviser - Executive Management; and Mohammad Rafiqul Hassan, Director - Research and Policy of TIB were also present at the meet.
Referring to the study findings, Dr Zaman pointed towards errors made during the inception of RAJUK which eventually led to the institutionalization of corruption and irregularities through the exploitation of loopholes, mismanagement, and lack of transparency and accountability. “Besides giving the mandate to formulate plans and implement development activities, RAJUK was also given the job of a regulatory body which created a “conflict of interest” in the organization and helped grow the culture of irregularities, corruption, and mismanagement within the entity, “turning the protector into a predator,” Dr Zaman observed. Vested groups yield profit of the advantage and do whatever they want, Dr Zaman added.
Dr Zaman continued, “RAJUK has also turned into development and commercial organization as the housing sector became profitable. In doing so, one of its core mandates, the regulatory role, has been overlooked because of its other profit-making ventures”. In this reality, major initiatives taken so far have done very little to overcome its challenges. The initiatives taken for the protection of the city dwellers from flood and waterlogging are less likely to endure effective results. Therefore, the livability of Dhaka is being hampered severely.
Dr Zaman said, “The role of the regulator to make a profit in the name of developmental activities must be separated at any cost. Since the culture of the business organization does not seem to be changed due to the prolonged practice in RAJUK, a separate, unbiased, and free from influence empowered authority should be established to ensure transparency and accountability in the overall functioning of the RAJUK. Also, RAJUK can be kept with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the housing and real estate only by making appropriate amendments.”
The study placed 14 points recommendations to overcome the challenges, including, formulation of timely and comprehensive laws in coordination with existing ones with necessary policies and guidelines. The study also suggested that the DAP (detailed area plan) should be finalized immediately after doing necessary revisions with recommendations from relevant experts. Besides, a separate cell should be established at the central level to address grievances with mandatory documentation of all the complaints. A hotline may be introduced to receive complaints. Its important recommendations also included, among others, digitization of all the documents of RAJUK, including approved plans. Besides, the detailed guideline should be framed, mentioning the process of online application for land use clearance and approval of the plan for the building.