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CDA cancels land licence: Erra’s head office in jeopardy

January 29, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Jan 28: Capital Development Authority (CDA) has cancelled Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority’s (Erra) land licence, after the three-year licence expired and the organisation violated the terms by building permanent structures.

The five-acre piece of land is located on Murree Road where Erra has built its headquarters.

The licencing terms only allowed temporary structures but Erra spent Rs193 million on building ‘permanent’ structures.

Erra has moved a request to the prime minister to regularise the land which would convert the licenced deal to a lease deal but the CDA plans to resist the move.

End of an Erra

According to Erra’s website, the government had set up the earthquake rehabilitation authority on October 2005 to take up the task of rebuilding the earthquake-affected areas spread over 30,000 square kilometres of nine districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

The nucleus staff of Erra comprises a hybrid of civil servants, armed forces personnel and international consultants.

Licence to build

Documents available with Dawn reveal that in September 2007 the CDA Board approved the request to allot five acres on Murree Road for the construction of “Erra’s building (temporary pre-fabricated structure)” for a period of three years, on a licence fee basis.

The letter said that CDA had allotted the land on a licenced basis for three years with per month fee of Rs72,600 per acre.

“Erra officials had submitted Rs2.1 million in advance as a licence fee, however, it was clearly mentioned in the agreement that Erra will not develop any permanent structures but it violated the clause of the deed,” maintained one official at the CDA finance wing.

The official further added that if the five-acre land is auctioned in today’s market price it would fetch the authority over Rs1 billion.

It is worth mentioning that in January 2011, the CDA’s Directorate of Municipal Administration (DMA) cancelled the licence and ordered Erra to vacate the land which it refused to do so.

DMA official said: “Licence for the land was granted for a three-year term from January 2008 to December 2010, which expired on December 2010. The licence may be treated cancelled.”

“But Erra is not responding to CDA concerns and instead has become a land grabbing government body,” asserted the official.

Erra stance

On the other hand, on April 2012, Erra through the office of the Prime Minister, sent a letter to the chairman CDA: “Erra has established an office, customised to its requirement on the land allocated by the CDA, at an approximate cost of Rs193 million.”

The letter further reads: “The earthquake resistant building of Erra headquarters serves as a model for Erra’s project, besides being an appropriate place for frequent interactions with international donor and representatives. Relocation of the office will result in wastage of huge government money spent on establishment of the office and it will also adversely affect the ongoing development activities.”

Paradoxically, Erra Chairman Hamid Yar Hiraj admitted: “Whatever was done is illegal and needs to be probed and responsibility should be fixed against those who had approved construction of permanent structures at the five-acre land.”

He said Erra were willing not to just fix responsibility of the fault but also to ensure that concerned structures are not damaged and state money is saved from more damage.

Mr Hiraj insisted: “We have sent a summary to the prime minister for regularisation of land at the same location.”

After regularisation, CDA will convert the licence to a leased land agreement, which can be extended, said an official.

CDA stance

CDA Chairman Syed Tahir Shahbaz said: “I will go through the files and in case there are violations we will move according to the rules.”

Mr Shahbaz said: “If a summary is moved to the prime minister for regularisation of the land, the cabinet division will obviously ask for CDA’s input and the organisation will clear the position of the Erra’s land as per the rules and regulations.”