Architects poorly rate Nairobi's e-construction system

Corruption, unclear guidelines, and inefficiencies are the main issues identified when using the NPDMS. [iStockphoto]

The performance of the Nairobi Planning Development Management System (NPDMS) has been rated poor by architects who have expressed their dissatisfaction with how it works.

According to a survey by the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK), the average waiting time for one to receive approval for a development application submitted is four months for the majority of the architects.

The survey describes this as significant delays that contribute to the end cost of the project due to unmet timelines.

The User Experience 2023 Survey Findings on the NPDMS also noted that due to interference with the system, many architects are forced to physically visit the Nairobi City County offices to follow up on the applications.

“The reasons given for the poor ratings include professionals ending up making physical visits to the county,” the survey states. 

It lists possible human interference in the system, frustrating processes, lack of transparency, delays in approvals, poor communication, and feedback, the system not user-friendly, time consumption, lack of information and updates and lack of user manuals and support.

On the other hand, the survey says, a relatively small proportion, 4.5 per cent of the experts, rated the system as good.

The experts had been asked if, in the past six months, they have completed a development project application from submission to approval without having to contact the Nairobi City County Development Control office or physically visit.

They were then required to rate the process.  

The survey details comments highlighting issues with the clarity and user-friendliness of the online submission process. There were also concerns about document attachment, the need for editing capabilities, and reliance on back-office staff for faster progress.


“Of all the respondents, 40.9 per cent rated the system as poor, indicating significant dissatisfaction with its performance. Additionally, 20.5 per cent of the experts rated it as very poor, reflecting an even stronger negative perception,” the survey states.

On the other hand, 34.1 per cent of the respondents described the system as fair, suggesting a mixed or moderate evaluation.  

Of the 44, 33 per cent had submitted only one application through NPDMS over the previous six months. Some 28 per cent had submitted two while 21 per cent had submitted no application within the period.

“This implies that a significant portion of the experts had minimal engagement with the system, possibly indicating a lower level of utilisation of the system and a limited number of development projects during that period,” the survey reads.

When asked: “How long did it take to process or receive approvals for development applications submitted in the last six months?” 34.1 per cent said four months on average.

The next category of 29.5 per cent waited between eight to 12 weeks while 18.2 per cent waited five to eight weeks. There were others who waited for more than five months to a year.

“This reveals significant delays in the approval process, with a high percentage of respondents experiencing waiting times of over three months,” the survey reads. These delays, it adds, significantly impact development timelines, increase costs, and create frustrations for experts and developers seeking approvals through the system.

Corruption, lack of response to the submissions, need for physical visits despite online process and unclear guidelines, and inefficiencies are the main issues identified when using the NPDMS.

“Some specific comments mentioned the poor response rate from the authorities unless one makes phone calls or physical visits the office, indicating a breakdown in communication. Notably, 93.2 per cent of the respondents had to visit the county offices after submitting applications, beating the essence of an online system,” the survey says.

To eliminate some of these challenges, AAK recommends that payment confirmation should be instant. The association also wants less human interaction with the system interface.

“The system should recognise all the plot numbers and link them with Ardhi Sasa,” the Association recommends. “Delink architect, client, Kenya Revenue Authority, Ministry of Lands accounts. We have no technical capacity for such levels of integration at the moment.”

The application also needs to be clearer when it comes to selecting new or renewal of projects. County officials also need to be more responsive.

AAK wants the process sequenced as it was done with the eDAMS. Edams is the Mombasa Electronic Development Application and Management System.

The Association also wants time for approval to be commensurate to the magnitude of the project saying the county heavily gains in revenue.