The pursuit of public services in Kenya is often a painfully long, expensive process riddled with hungry middlemen and shameless cons.
This is especially true of the notorious Lands ministry, where countless illegal transactions are carried out by the day around the country.
The government, however, now hopes that the fraud and delays in completion of transactions will come to an end with a new land information system.
The National Land Information Management System (NLIMS), dubbed Ardhisasa, is expected to weed out notorious fraudsters who have perennially made land transactions a nightmare.
At the same time, the speed and safety of transactions is expected to increase with the online platform that allows citizens, stakeholders and interested parties to interact with the land information and processes by government.
“The full rollout of the programme will facilitate the resolution of historical land disputes and guarantee the security and sanctity of your land title deed,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said during the launch of the system in Nairobi on April 27.
He said the digital platform will help landowners and potential landowners by providing accurate information to support commercialisation of land in a convenient manner.
Users can sign into Ardhisasa through a computer or mobile phone, and within seconds make applications for various services on the platform.
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Ardhisasa, which involved painstaking collection, manipulation and entry of spatial information into one database, has been developed jointly by the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning (MoLPP), the National Land Commission (NLC) and key partners in government.
“Ardhisasa allows the lodgement of applications for various services offered by the ministry and the commission. The applications are handled through the platform and responses presented through it,” reads a brief on the website.
Top of the priorities is to ensure that Kenyans are no longer at the mercy of money-hungry professionals who sacrifice work ethics for quick, illegal wealth, and impostors who infiltrate the system to defraud those seeking services.
During a meeting with the Institution of Surveyors of Kenya (ISK) and the Association of Licensed Land Surveyors of Kenya (ALLSK) last month, Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney said quacks and fraudsters among professionals will be easily unmasked using the new system.
“We have built a safe and secure platform with highly encrypted data. Ardhisasa will restrict transactional powers to professionals registered with their respective bodies, and prompt users and professionals to demonstrate fidelity to the law,” she said.
The system offers services for land registration and administration, physical planning, survey and mapping, valuation, adjudication and settlement and services by the NLC, which is mandated with management of public land on behalf of the national and county governments.
It integrates all operations of the Ministry of Lands’ line departments and provides a one-stop-shop where end-to-end transactions are conducted.
“The system does not change the salient land registration and administration processes as set out in the Land Act, the Land Registration Act, the Survey Act, the Physical and Land Use Planning Act, or the Stamp Duty Act,” writes law firm Karanja Njenga Advocates regarding Ardhisasa.
“It only provides an online system that disseminates digital land information and facilitates land administration and registration of dealings in land. The operational and approval processes are automated within the system, thus reducing the human interaction between the internal and external users of the system.”
According to the law firm, properties with incomplete data records showing how the proprietor came to own the asset such as letters of allotment or transfers, will not be included in the system.
Land recognised as public and captured on the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Illegal and Irregular Allocation of Land (Ndung’u Report) and the Revocation Gazette Notice No 6862 will also not be part of Ardhisasa.
At best, the system will offer a panacea to fraud that bugs the land registration and administration processes, giving people an easy route to accessing information that they may need on any parcel of land without worrying about losing money.
Accessing the platform is free of charge. At worst, like every digital system, Ardhisasa could be a target for criminals who could hack into it and manipulate data.
Ardhisasa was long overdue. The digitisation of land records has already made it easy to identify parcels of public land that have been converted into private land illegally.
The process to trace land thieves will be long, says the government, but it will be done.
“It will take time since we have taken 60 years to create this chaos. It will be painful for some people but we have to undertake it if we are to act in a more accountable manner,” CS Karoney was quoted as saying in an interview with a local paper.
The government hopes to reclaim all illegally acquired public land, with the goal being to eliminate the fraud that has made land deals a pain for many Kenyans.