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November 9, 2018

FIA recommends one window operation for private housing


November 9, 2018

Islamabad : The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has recommended one window process for private housing towns to get permissions from regulators to avoid corrupt practices and inordinate delays by regulating authorities.

In its report submitted to the Supreme Court, the FIA has proposed that the unregistered private housing societies, which are in the process of securing approvals, have to go through tedious process requiring multiple steps, including planning permission, technical sanction and procurement of a long list of no-objection certificates from a whole range of departments. It should be reviewed immediately and replaced with one window process with a strict time bar on its completion.

“In fact the procedure for registration of the schemes with development authorities is very complex and time consuming. It involves multiple steps, which result in inordinate delays and lead to corruption and corrupt practices on the part of the regulator as well as the developer. Layout plan of numerous schemes are pending with development authorities or other regulators for want of clear policy regarding land falling revenue path, irrigation channel,” the report, which was prepared on the direction of the apex court, a copy of which is available with The News, said.

While deciding a bail matter in May 2,017, the court had expressed grave concern over ransacking of destitute government servants and innocent general public through cooperative housing societies on such a large scale throughout Pakistan and lamented over the apathy of the State on this disease transforming into a huge cancer of corruption. It had ordered constitution of joint teams comprising senior directors/investigation officer (IO) of FIA, National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) and revenue of areas concerned.

The report further recommended that a centralised agency, at provincial or federal level, may be established to look after regulatory affairs of private and cooperative housing societies, which should also have investigative powers for such matters and in order to avoid fraud, overbooking, and to ensure proper collection of stamp and other duties, registration of sale deed of each plot with the revenue department, should be made mandatory for every housing society.

The report identified one category of private housing towns as unregistered by the development authorities on the pretext that the same have set up their offices and engaged in development activities and marketing without the receipt of approval or issuance of NOC by them. Contrary to this position, such developers are adamant that the submission of formal request for approval on the prescribed format of the regulator proves their good intention and the mala fide inordinate delay of years by the decision-makers is the main reason of non-issuance of NOCs to them.

According to the report, high volume profits, non/inadequate existence of government in housing sector to meet the demand of houses, high demand for well-developed living facilities, complicity of the regulators, prolonged civil litigation, grant of permission of land subdivision in micro units by the revenue authorities, with specific reference to agricultural lands, windfall gains by making small investment for a shorter period, safe mode for investment of black money and weak legal regime against the menace (as the offence of cheating public at large has only been introduced in National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 while other law enforcement agencies like FIA and ACE could not take actions against private cheatings) are the main reasons of the popularity of these illegal schemes.

The report observed that in the outskirts of cities, the developers purchase small pieces of land (in few acres), get the agricultural electricity connection installed along with transformers, develop this land without observing the standards of the development authorities, carry out substandard development works on fast track, use local signboards and billboards for publicity and market the plots in the vicinity with the connivance of the concerned regulatory authorities. The public plots ie parks, schools, play grounds and graveyard first shown in the maps and after saturation of society, allocated land sold as land were never transferred to the regulators.

Serious lapses in the master plan of metropolitan cities vis-à-vis topography and geographical situation on ground, have been observed, the report said. The areas marked as flood prone and green in the Master Plan have been, practically, converted into built up areas at site. Furthermore, the Master Plan previously conceived is repeatedly revised, on the whims and wishes of the decision makers, without realising the actual situation on ground. Such ill-considered revision of master plans affected a large number of already existing societies (under process, at planning stage) by declaring their area as green on a subsequent date. It is the need of the hour to review the master plan of the cities at once, keeping in view the topographical and geographical situation at site, the report suggested.

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