Shawkat Ali, joint secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, got a flat allotted at a government housing project in the capital’s Mirpur area seven years ago. As per rules, he won’t be entitled to any other flat in the government projects.

But he allegedly got hold of another flat at a government project at around Tk 1 crore , taking advantage of his position.

This is not the lone case of irregularities in allocation of flats in the government projects. There are allegations that some other high-ranked government officials have also resorted to irregularities to get allotment of flats.

The housing authorities have been implementing a project of building 430 flats at the D-Type Colony on Asad Avenue and Satmasjid Road in the capital's Mohammadpur Housing Estate. Here, Shawkat Ali received a 1,850 square feet flat at a cost of Tk 1.18 crore.

According to the housing authority sources, a total of 17 quotas were fixed for allocating the flats of the project, including government officials, freedom fighters, non-government employees, businessmen and non-resident Bangladeshis.

Of them, 32 flats were kept for officials of the Ministry of Housing and Public Works and the National Housing Authority. The reserved flats have officially been allocated in a hasty way in February.

For other quotas, no lottery has taken place yet, but an amount of Tk 3 lakh has been collected as security from each of the interested clients.

The project will be implemented on about three acres of land. However, the construction work is yet to commence due to legal complexities.

No one abides by the rules

There was a condition to apply for the flats that if an applicant, his spouse, or children already received a plot or flat in Dhaka north and south city corporation area from the housing authority, RAJUK, or any other government, semi-government, or autonomous organisation, he or she won’t be eligible to apply for buying a flat at the Mohammadpur project.

The same will be applicable even if he has already sold or handed over a plot or flat that was allocated earlier. If there is evidence of flouting rules to get allotment of plots or flats, the allotment order will be canceled and the buyer's deposit will be forfeited.

Shawkat Ali paid no heed to the rules and regulations.

Analysing the housing authority documents, it was found that he got a flat allotted in another housing project (Jaynagar project) in 2015. The 14-storey project is being implemented in Mirpur-15 area. Out of 520 flats, Shawkat Ali got allotment of the G-2 flat at the number-5 building at a cost of Tk 68.10 lakh.

A source at the housing authority said an amount of Tk 7.39 lakh has been collected as the first installment of price from each of the 29 government officials who got allotment of flats at the Mohammadpur housing project on 28 and 29 March.

When contacted, Shawkat Ali told Prothom Alo that he had taken a new flat after returning the previous one to the housing authority. He claimed it was not an irregularity.

Meanwhile, a number of housing officials said if the irregularities are regulated in such a way, many would change the allotment of flats as per their choice, which will lead to chaos.

Allegations against 3 more

Apart from Shawkat Ali, three more senior officials have been subjected to allegations of violating rules to get allotment of flats.

They are – Mohammad Ashraf Hossain, director (land) of the National Housing Authority; Azizur Rahman, director general of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO); and Jazrin Nahar, its director.

As per rules, the ministry officials (employed in posting and deputation) must complete at least one year of service in order to get the allotment of flats. But Ashram Hossain’s tenure at the housing authority was only around three months when he applied for the flat. Besides, Azizur Rahman and Jazrin Nahar were allotted flats in the housing quota.

Asked about the allotment of flats defying rules and regulations, Md Delwar Haidar, chairman of the National Housing Authority, was quoted as saying by the agency’s secretary Mohammad Ullah that their flats have been allocated as per direction of the ministry. It has even been approved at the board meeting.

But former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumder thinks that irregularities and corruption have been resorted to in the allocation process.

“The issue should be investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission. Besides, legal action should be taken against those responsible,” he told Prothom Alo.