Lands CS backs move to digitise property records and transactions

Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning building, Nairobi, January 2018. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The Ministry of Lands has digitised land records of more than 100,000 properties and uploaded the same on a digital platform to enable owners to make the applications for surrender online.

In Nairobi, there are approximately 250,000 registered parcels in addition to 70,000 sectional units.

The conversion of the land records and upload to Ardhisasa, the National Land Information system launched on April 27, 2021, covers a third of the city land.

The exercise has however been slow during the transition period, thus affecting land transactions in Nairobi.

Ministry of Lands, Public Works, Housing and Urban Development Cabinet Secretary Zachariah Njeru says the digitisation of land records will be streamlined to fast-track processes.

Njeru in an interview with The Standard said measures had been put in place to ensure land transactions are implemented even as the digitisation programme is being rolled out.

The CS said this will include accepting manual registration where the property has not been gazetted for conversion and setting up teams to handle specific issues like concluding pending transactions, validation of records and reorganisation of correspondence and deed files at the geospatial data centre.

He said the Lands officials are expected to operate within strict timelines set for each activity.

"The Ministry, while acknowledging the importance of the concerns raised by the public, wishes to underscore the importance of the digitisation programme in addressing governance challenges," said Njeru.

Digitisation of land records started in 2018 when the ministry began validation and manual verification of the records.

"For all these years we have operated from archaic manual records that have been generated; some torn out, missing and worn out. The government in its manifesto indicated digitisation and all E-services as a key driving force of the economy," said Njeru.

A number of things must be put in place to lay the groundwork for digitisation, including the amendment of laws.

Njeru said stakeholders involved in the review of the laws include the Law Society (LSK), Institute of Surveyors (ISK), Kenya Bankers Association (KBA), Kenya Private Developers Association (KPDA), Council of Governors (CoG), NGOs, Civil Society, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and the Ministry Departments.

This process commenced with the Nairobi and Central Registries.

In Nairobi, there are two registries, including Nairobi Land Registry handling property previously under LRA i.e Nairobi/Block Properties and Nairobi Central Registry handling properties emanating from property registered under RTA & GLA popularly known as white islands.

Njeru said the departments under manual records had inefficiencies, fraud and no proper linkage.

"During this project, there is no doubt there have been inconveniences to the public land owners and business communities thereby creating an environment that is not conducive for business," the CS said.

However, during this period the Ministry endeavoured to address business continuity.

Last week, the Ministry received a memo from LSK outlining five areas that require serious attention.

They include, Conversion Geo-referencing/long-term leases under Ardhisasa, the appointment of the Chief Land Registrar, and the inauguration of the new Land Control Board.

In response to the memo, Njeru admitted that since the Ardhisasa was launched to provide services across the technical departments there were some data gaps.

"A lot of progress has been made since the launch in terms of verification, scanning data capture and validation of the records," he said.

"However, we have data gaps that need to be addressed to enable landowners to transact. Emanating from the complaints raised by LSK, ISK and other stakeholders, the Ministry has formed a team to audit and review the system functionality."

The Lands Ministry in corroboration with the State Department for Information, Communication and Digital Economy has been working on the implementation of advanced digital signature.

Njeru said the testing of the digital signature is currently ongoing and shall be followed by certification and authorisation to use.

Manual documents

He said in order to address business continuity, a mechanism was put in place to accept the registration of manual documents where the property has not been gazetted for conversion. On the regulation of long-term leases and geo-referencing, the CS said the State Department of Lands and Physical Planning has been registering long-term leases based on architectural drawings and building plans.

These architectural drawings and building plans were registered under the Registration of Documents Act and did not have attributes of the identification of sectional units. There was no uniformity in the naming of these sectional units.

"In order to address the challenges faced by long-term leases the ministry enacted the Sectional Property Act 2020," said Njeru.

The Land Registration Act provides that registration of long-term leases of apartments, offices, townhouses, flats or maisonettes has the effect of conferring ownership of the property if it is properly geo-referenced.