THE state of affairs at the registrar and sub-registrar’s offices that Transparency International, Bangladesh in its report launched on Monday came up with suggests glaring failures of the government in stopping corruption in land registration. The report, which suggests that corruption has almost been institutionalised in land registry offices that are under the law ministry’s registration directorate, shows that the collusion between vested interests, from field-level employees to high-level officials, aided by outsiders such as deed writers and politically influential quarters, has made bribery a norm at every step of land registration. Service-seekers, as the report notes, have paid bribes from Tk 1,000 up to Tk 5 million for the registration of land deeds, depending on the nature of the deeds and the value of the land being registered. Duplicate copies of deeds entail a bribe ranging from Tk 1,000 to Tk 7,000 and service-seekers also need to donate between Tk 5,00 and Tk 5,000 to the deed writers’ association for each deed registration. Service-seekers need to pay a bribe of at least Tk 3,000 for each deed of sale. Such corruption in land registry offices deprives the government of its due revenue by way of reduced registration fees while it helps the people involved in the process to line their own pockets.
The Transparency International, Bangladesh executive director is reported to have said that corruption at the registrar and sub-registrar’s offices increased compared with the findings of similar studies of the watchdog in the past. This takes the concern about the state of affairs in land registry offices to a further worrying level, bringing to the fore the absence of any government efforts to attend to the issues although such reports have been made public before. The survey also delves deep into the corruption that takes place and finds the reasons for corruption to have, in many cases, stemmed from the need for copyists and clerks to pay bribes for promotion and for deed writers to pay bribes to high officials. Copyists need to pay between Tk 20,000 and Tk 300,000 for registration and between Tk 200,000 and Tk 800,000 for promotion to clerk. Clerks need to pay between Tk 100,000 and Tk 300,000 for promotion to assistant. Deed writers need to pay between Tk 100,000 and Tk 300,000 to obtain licences and spend between Tk 200,000 and Tk 300,000 for the membership of the association, which is reported to ensure protection of deed writers from probable action for taking bribes. Sub-registrars need to pay between Tk 300,000 and Tk 2 million to high officials for their transfer to places of their choice. Deed writers with the connivance of office staff, copyists and clerks force people to pay bribes for various reasons, including the ‘maintenance of offices.’
What happens in the registrar and sub-registrar’s offices suggests that nothing but money speaks there. And the situation suggests that the government must fight on at least two fronts to put the offices in order — stopping corruption in offices and heading off the influence of outsiders on the offices. The report recommends that digitisation of the land registration process, stepped up oversight and a mechanism for officials and employees of the registration directorate to make their wealth statements public could help to reduce corruption. The government must do all this, early and in earnest.