The reconstruction of buildings and facilities of the Chattogram Customs 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.
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 August 27, 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.
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 New Nation 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 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.
When contacted, Chattogram Port Authority Secretary Md Omar Farooq said that he would talk about it later as he was out of the country.