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The National Land Commission recently directed all county land management boards to forward their work to its headquarters for approval.
The day-to-day administration of public land is the mandate of county land management boards (CLMBs) secretariats at the county level. On the other hand, major decisions on allocation of public land, extension and change of user, sub-division and renewal of leases is the mandate of CLMBs. The executive power on all documents related to public land should be exercised by the county land executive office on behalf of the governor. This should be realised through enactment of appropriate laws through county assemblies. NLC’s mandate is to oversight, monitor and take correctional measures for any misapplication of rules, regulations and standards. The commission is also supposed to ensure adherence to principles of good land governance. This means all the work which used to be done at Ardhi House by the defunct Commissioner of Lands’ office will now begin and end at the county level. It should be noted that CLMBs are not subordinate to NLC, but autonomous entities. CLMBs have the power to make final decisions on matters touching on their mandate. That is why they were constituted under a rigorous process. It is also the reason members of those boards are expected to have high education levels. NLC should only question the decision of CLMBs when there is a complaint. The Supreme Court advisory opinion confirms the powers of CLMBs by recognising them as organs bestowed with responsibilities for “preparatory steps towards acquisition of ownership of land”. The advisory opinion further recognises CLMBs as vehicles through which land administration is devolved to the counties. If land administration is devolved then it cannot be done in Nairobi by NLC. CLMBs are not an extension of NLC and are not owned by NLC. Section 18(1) of The National Land Act gives the NLC power to establish CLMBs for the purpose of managing public land. The duty of NLC is only to establish CLMBs, not to lord over them or own them. Except for the secretary and members of the secretariat, the rest of the CLMB members are not employees of the NLC and should thus not draw their allowances from the NLC. - The writer is a private land administration expert.
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