A recent Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB) survey found corruption at every phase of land registration service. Almost all the sub-registry offices in the country are hubs of corruption. However, the issue is not being addressed.
The Inspector General of Registration (IGR), senior district judge, is the chief executive of the land registration department, appointed by the law and justice ministry following the recommendations of the Supreme Court. As per the law, the district judge has to carry out the duties in absence of a sub-register. It is not clear how the justice department can effectively combatt corruption in land registration activities. It has not yet been fixed whether this administration will remain under the law ministry or land ministry. A writ is under trial over the issue. It is a actually a matter of political decision. Yet, in the current system, the justice department cannot remain silent about registration service sector corruption.
The current IGR was appointed under contract when he was a district judge still in the office. Over 100,000 deeds are registered in the country every day. An extra fee of Tk 1000 to 500,000 is taken illegally from the clients. This is enough to indicate the depth of corruption in the system, but the office of the IGR does not provide any explanation regarding steps ever being taken.
This ministry dealing with huge public interests does not even hold a single press conference in an entire year.
The land registration administration should be overhauled. The allegations of forgery in the appointment of 189 sub-registers were proved by a bold decision of former law minister Shafique Ahmed. The joint secretary of his ministry at the time, Majnul Ahsan, led a three-member committee that unearthed the irregularities. Two of the members are now justices in the High Court. The committee found that 109 employees among 189 who were recruited as Mujibnagar government's employees were actually about three-years-old during the liberation war. Most of them are still in office. The parliamentary committee involved in the investigation mysteriously lost interest in the process later.
It is hard to reform the sector, but two decisions could be implemented right now. These are preventing cash transations and providing the parties original deeds on the day of registration. These are the main sources of mammoth corruption. When Masdar Hossain was the IGR in 2007, Tk 50 million was recovered from a peon at Sunamganj. An act was introduced then requiring that all the exchanges be made in bank drafts. Since then most of the fees were accepted via banks but direct exchanges were still kept in a few sectors due to bureaucratic complications. This must be stopped and all the exchanges must be made via banks or online. The habit of spending two years to receive a copy of the original deed is the source of various corruption and public harassment.
Masdar Hossain introduced the provision to draft three original copies of the deed together and providing them to the deed owner. This was initiated under a pilot project at the Tejgaon registry office too. If this provision is implemented corruption can be reined in to some extent for the time being.