A land buyer saved Tk5 lakh by bribing his sub-registry office Tk5 lakh to have a 5.75-decimal plot of land registered at a reduced price.
The registration fee for the land worth Tk1.5 crore, as per government rules, is Tk15 lakh, but he had to pay only one-third the amount because the sub-registry office showed a reduced price of land in the document.
Thus, the buyer cheated the government out of Tk10 lakh revenue in the registration charge.
This is an example of corruption in land registry offices across the country. It was brought to light by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) in a recent study.
The report, titled "Land Management and Service Activities: Challenges of Good Governance and How to Get Rid of Them," was released in the capital on Monday.
The study was carried out in 41 selected sub-registry offices across the country.
The study revealed that there is corruption at every step in land related services in district registry and sub-registry offices, and people have to pay Tk500 to Tk5 lakh to officials at different stages.
The study also revealed that any recruitment, transfer or promotion is also traded at different levels in those offices.
A deed writer at a registry office told the TIB that they charge at least 35 percent more than the government-set price for written deeds. The charge increases depending on the situation and on the capacity of the parties.
Even the monitoring system in land offices is corrupt. Monitoring agents and corrupt officials are in partnership, said Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of TIB.
He said corruption in land offices could be prevented if the authorities concerned had an honest will to curb it. He added that if things continue as they are, corruption will become institutionalised very soon.
He suggested that the authorities should identify all corrupt officials and punish them so that good governance and transparency gets established in the sector.
According to the report, a number of officials in all tiers, from deed writers to the sub-registrar, accept bribes while rendering land-related services to the people.
The money is then allegedly distributed among themselves in proportion to their position. Ten to 50 percent is fixed for the sub-registrar, while the rest goes to other officials, the report added.
A share of the bribe money allegedly goes to the district registrar's office and even to the Directorate of Registration at times, said the TIB study.
"There are share seekers in the head office, and we need to contact them. We have to pay a portion of money to the Directorate of Registration," a deed writer told the TIB.
"This is an established system. We receive bribes from deed writers, and deed writers take it from clients," TIB quoted an anonymous sub-registrar as saying.
TIB also identified a number of deficiencies in land offices of the country.
In some cases, the sub-registrar has to depend on contributions from the deed writers' association for office expenses because there is no government allowance for this purpose.
It creates room for corruption, the study said.
TIB also found that some allowances for officials in land offices are not in keeping with the needs of the current time. The officials, for example, get only Tk1o for making an official visit to a place that is one-kilometre away, while a copy-writer gets only Tk24 for writing 300 words.
Land offices lack digitisation too. They have no database to identify fake registrations of land.
Lack of proper monitoring and action against the corrupt begets more corruption, says the TIB study.
The anti-corruption watchdog said that they found no complaint box in 24 out of 41 sub-registrar offices where they conducted their study. Even though there are complaint boxes in the other 17 offices, they are not functional.
TIB recommended some reforms in the area of law and its application, and in the system, including the digitalisation of all land registration services.