New digital lands system on test

Lands Cabinet Secretary Faridah Karoney. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Ministry of Lands together with the National Intelligence Service have finished setting up a new digitised system of  land transactions so as to tame the increasing cases of fraud and forgery of documents in the sector.

The Sh490 million new digital Land Information Management System (Lims) is expected to be operational in all the 61 land registries countrywide before end of April.

The registries were in February 2017 supplied with computers and connected to internet to pave way for implementation of digital transactions.

But that first attempt was challenged by lawyers on grounds that their work as commissioners for oaths and agents of land transactions would be rendered redundant. However, the case was withdrawn and digital transactions started in Nairobi only.

One of the Ministry officials co-ordinating the exercise has revealed that Information Technology (IT) officers from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) have already embarked on testing the system in Nairobi. They are expected to have finished and operationalised it by March 31, this year.

“The NIS were brought in to ensure security of the records. The system is not new per say as we had worked on another system but we realized there were problems with the software. The current system which is under test has security features to avert forgery,” said the official, who sought anonymity as he is not allowed to speak to the media.

Although the Ministry’s Cabinet Secretary Faridah Karoney and her Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri failed to respond to questions about the development, the source disclosed that already the clerks at the Ministry have started scanning documents as the trial continues.

“We have started with Nairobi as a pilot. Data is being scanned, verified and uploaded. We want to verify the new system starting with Nairobi and later roll out to the counties by the beginning of April 2020,” stated the official.

The registrars are still in the dark about the new system with one of them saying they have not been made aware about it.

While describing the system as less vulnerable to corruption and human interference as it enables file tracking, the source said the digitized land records will be distributed across a network of computers.

This means the data will not be in one location to ensure saboteurs may not succeed by damaging or stealing computers at Ardhi House or at any other registry.

Once activated, all land deals across the country will be conducted on an online platform from anywhere, via a website or a mobile App portal that provides a front office customer and a back end interface.

The new platform is expected to bring to an end decades-old instances where files go missing and records such as title deed and green card altered leading to irregular land dealings worth billions of shillings.

However, digitisation of the land transactions is in accordance with Sections 9 and 10 of the Land Registration Act 2012, on maintenance of documents and public access to the register, correspondingly.

Section 9 gives the Registrar of Lands the mandate to maintain the register and any document required in a secure, accessible and reliable format which includes electronic files and an integrated land resource register.

Further, Section 10 of the Act while stressing on freedom of and access to information says Lands Registrar has mandate to make information in the (lands) register accessible to the public by electronic means or any other means as the Chief Land Registrar may reasonably prescribe.