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Transactions on land finally set to go digital

SCI & TECH
By Dominic Omondi | July 30th 2019

Workers sort out documents at the Kisii Land Registry in May 2015. The old manual system has been blamed for rampant corruption in land transactions in the country. [File, Standard]

The laborious process of sifting through a mountain of old, dusty files just to extract a document at the Lands Registry could soon be a thing of the past.

This is after the Government developed new regulations that will enable Kenyans to extract, retrieve or access any document from the electronic registry system, bringing to an end the manual registry that has been riddled with corruption.

Some of the documents that can now be issued electronically by a land registrar, according to the regulations, include a notice, certificate or document which is required to be issued by the registrar under the Act.

“With the launch of the system, individuals will be able to conduct all land-related processes online, including the transfer of ownership, registration of charges, discharges, cautions and withdrawals, payment of land rent, stamp duty and capital gains tax,” said IKM Advocates in a note. 

The Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning Portal was set to go live on April 8, but it was opposed by lawyers, through their professional body - the Law Society of Kenya - arguing that the regulations to enable electronic conveyancing were still pending in Parliament.

Despite the ease that comes with the new system, fears abound that it could be susceptible to hacking while others are wary of their passwords getting stolen.

Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney had not responded to our question on when the portal would go live by the time of going to press.

“Where a transaction cannot be carried out using the electronic registration system, the person seeking to carry out the transaction shall carry out the transaction through such other means as the Chief Land Registrar may determine,” reads part of the regulations.

One will be expected to create an account in the system from which they will engage in any land transaction.

Users who have unauthorised access to land-related information will lead to termination of their accounts by the Chief Registrar.

The Chief Registrar can also terminate a user’s account in cases of fraud, identity theft, and system misuse. Death of a user could also lead to the termination of the account.

Electronic registration of documents such as title deeds into the system shall be done by a qualified advocate.

“A person preparing a registrable instrument shall ensure that the instrument is serialized and has adequate security features,” read part of the regulations.

 “A document or instrument lodged electronically for the purpose of registration electronically has the same effect as if the document or instrument was lodged in the form of a paper document.”

“The different processes meant tedious amounts of paperwork and lengthy queues. This impacted the turnaround time on transactions for lawyers and led to the use of brokers by landowners to hasten the process,” the regulations note further.

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