KARACHI - People, who don’t have money to offer bribes to officials of the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) for approval of their building plans, remain in the queue despite tall claims of the authorities about the One Window Operation, which is meant to facilitate the applicants.

All 18 zones of the SBCA in Karachi charge an officially approved fee for approval of building plans. However, SBCA officials do not approve building plans until they receive a go-head from their juniors such as clerks. These clerks first strike deals with people coming for approval of building plans and then ask their seniors to approve the building plans. They get an assurance from the applicants that they were ready to pay the bribes, which is departmentally known as “speed money”. Speed money is the money people pay to SBCA officials other than the official fees for approval of their building plans.

Some SBCA clerks told The Nation on condition of anonymity that corrupt clerks would steal the records from the record room if an applicant directly approaches the senior officials for approval of a building plan. Later, these corrupt people would give lame excuses about disappearance of an applicant’s application and other record. They would not present the application to senior officials until the applicant offers them a considerable amount in bribe.

A clerk in the Gulberg Zone told this reporter that officials such as directors, deputy directors and assistant directors had set their own rates for approval of plans for different types of buildings. These rates are as following: Rs30,000 for approval of a building plan on a 80 to 100 square yard plot, Rs50,000 for approval of a building plan for a 110 to 200 square yard plot and Rs100,000 for approval of a building plan for a 210 to 400 square yard plot.

 These rates are only for double storey buildings. If a client is interested in construction of a multi-storey building, he would have to pay double the officially approved fee for each storey. Similarly, SBCA officials have set higher rates for approval of plans for commercial buildings. The rates for approval of plans for commercial buildings range from Rs700,000 to Rs20 million and they vary according to the project standard and location.

According to the clerk, an SBCA director received a bribe of R400,000 for approval of a building plan for a 400 square yard commercial plot in addition to the official fee. He said, “Had the applicant refused to pay the bribe, the director would have raised different objections to the building plan.”

Sharing his experience with the SBCA with regard to approval of a building plan, applicant Fahad Ahmed said, “I have submitted a proposed building plan for an 80 square yard residential plot, but the department has been delaying its approval for the last three months because I have refused to pay the bribe. A clerk approached me and asked for Rs3,000 for approval of my plan.” When contacted, the SBCA spokesperson was not available to comment on the issue.