Wednesday , October 4 2023

63 years of unpaid rents get in way of Ctg custom reconstruction

Over the last 63 years, customs has not made a single payment, resulting in a total dues of Tk13.61 crore

11 September, 2023, 09:10 am

Last modified: 11 September, 2023, 11:59 am

File Photo: Mohammad Minhaj Uddin/TBS

File Photo: Mohammad Minhaj Uddin/TBS

File Photo: Mohammad Minhaj Uddin/TBS

The reconstruction of buildings and facilities of the Chattogram Custom House hit a roadblock as the Chattogram Port, the landowner, demanded that the customs authorities clear unpaid rent for over six decades first.

According to the Port Authority Act, the customs house is obligated to pay annual rent for an 8.33-acre plot of land at the port on which it was built in 1960. However, over the course of 63 years, customs has not made a single payment, resulting in a total outstanding due of Tk13.61 crore.

The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has undertaken the initiative to demolish the old and dilapidated buildings at the customs house and construct new buildings and facilities at a cost of Tk715 crore.

It is part of a Tk1,686 crore project, which also includes the development of the VAT Training Academy, the feasibility study of Dhaka Custom House, Benapole Custom House, and the Customs Risk Management Commissionerate.  The World Bank will finance the project.

But the customs is unable to get construction plan approval from the Chattogram Development Authority (CDA) without a no-objection letter from the port, which has turned down repeated requests unless the arrears are paid.

According to data from the custom house, as the buildings are old and the space is not compacted, there is constant complication in the collection of government revenue.

According to the port authorities, it pays municipal tax at the commercial rate for the said land. According to the law, there is no scope to allow the construction of any new facility without paying the rent. It said it has conveyed the matter to the customs authorities through several letters.

On 27 August, the estate department of the port informed the customs that it owed Tk13.61 crore, including VAT, for the rent of 8.3361 acres of land from 1961 to 2023. The port requested that the customs authorities pay this outstanding amount through a Treasury challan.

The Chattogram Custom House says it collects about Tk60,000 crore annually, but it is not authorised to spend the money without the government’s approval.  

Faizur Rahman, commissioner at Chattogram Custom House, told The Business Standard that the issue has also been discussed with the port authorities. “We have written to the National Board of Revenue for payment of the due rent. We hope to get an allocation soon.”

Dhaka Custom House Commissioner AKM Nurul Huda Azad is the project director of the whole project including the construction of new buildings for the Chattogram customs.

In this regard, Chattogram Custom House spokesperson Deputy Commissioner Md Bodruzzaman Munshi told TBS that the project director had a meeting with Chattogram Custom House officials last August regarding the construction of the buildings. The project director has recently sought the opinion of the officials regarding the construction.

According to data from the Chattogram port, the customs department is also not paying the rent of the new auction shed built on five acres of the port. Since 2016, the customs department has owed about Tk5 crore to the port for the rent of the auction shed.

According to data from the port’s estate department, in 2016, the port built a new auction shed on a 5-acre area to relocate the customs’ old auction shed within the port yard. No response was received despite multiple letters. The port authority wrote again on 24 August for payment of Tk5.13 lakh for the rent of the auction shed.

When contacted, Chattogram Port Authority Secretary Md Omar Farooq said that he would talk about it later as he was out of the country.

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