Resolve all pending issues on Ardhisasa online now
Cabinet Secretary Zachariah Njeru holds a very wide portfolio.
It consists of Lands and Physical Planning, Housing and Public Works, and Urban Development dockets. I cannot recall any other Lands minister who ever held all these in one. Mr Njeru will, therefore, find himself extremely busy. Luckily for us, the Lands docket provides space and rights upon which housing, public works and urban development happen. His efforts in Lands will, therefore, manifest and support his efforts in the other dockets.
Delays in land transactions have, for instance, impended the expedient provision of land for housing and the development of infrastructure over the years. The CS has the discretion to have all these work in complementarity. But the one thing he must first fix to attain efficiency is the online land management system, Ardhisasa, launched in April 2021.
The intentions of establishing it are noble, the initial policy and technical hitches notwithstanding. It will help to expedite land transactions; it will immortalise our land records in better form and help to disseminate land records countrywide in real-time. It substantially reduces human interfacing and the consequent motivation for rent-seeking.
For practising professionals, it cuts out intermediaries and quacks, who enjoy much latitude with conventional manual systems. Unfortunately, its performance has been sub-optimal. Anecdotal evidence from banks, legal, planning, surveying and real estate practitioners bespeaks a most worrying trend with transactions for Nairobi County, which went first on Ardhisasa, piling up.
This is not sustainable in a country grossly short of own-source revenue, a stream that greatly benefits from land revenues. It also frustrates many Kenyans queuing to move their land transactions and development.
Former CS Farida Karoney did well to establish the online system.
But she never got to fully integrate user feedback. Ordinarily, new systems face challenges that are gradually addressed during piloting. But Ardhisasa never enjoyed adequate pre-design input from the industry. As a result, some of the policy and technical assumptions that informed the system design have not worked well.
We treated Nairobi as a pilot county but went on to deactivate the manual systems before conclusive monitoring and review. Furthermore, the physical records were reportedly moved offsite—hopefully, safely archived.
CS Njeru has little latitude; he will have to undertake a review of the system. He must first unlock the backlog of transactions with parallel manual submission and processing of land records while working on the documented user concerns. That will, perhaps, unlock the stalemate and the cumulative loss of billions worth of land transactions.
He must also expedite the conversion of the old titles to the Land Registration Act, 2012, a prerequisite for putting documents online. While that is a necessary statutory procedure, it remains unknown to most landowners and will continue to undermine the uptake of Ardhisasa if not publicised and perfected.
Mr Mwathane is a licensed surveyor and consultant on land governance. [email protected]