The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) now wants the Lands ministry to form a task force to review electronic land registration and transfer for advocates even as Parliament debates regulations for the sector.
The society’s president Allen Gichuhi said having a task force handle the issue will save time when the House approves the regulations that give Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney the mandate to prepare guidelines for implementation of the electronic registration system.
Lawyers said this will enable them carry out their roles online, therefore, saving time and allowing the fulfilment of the legal requirement for advocates to be the only people to draft various documents in land sales and transfers.
“Let us jump-start the process. As the parliamentary process goes on, we can now start constituting a task force to start the process to prepare guidelines for e-conveyancing,” Mr Gichuhi said.
LSK has opposed the ministry’s plan to take its services online, saying it will be in violation of legal provisions that mandate only lawyers to sign off on land documents and processes.
“We urge you to immediately suspend the impugned and illegal online transfer and to revert to the previous regime.
"We also urge you to immediately cease online processing of consents that require physical presence or third-party engagements,” Mr Gichuhi said in a letter to Ms Karoney last week.
Top among the services that have gone online are land searches, which usually account for about 80 per cent of the traffic at the ministry, as well as transfer of ownership or lease, issuance of consent and valuation requests.
With the switch, users only have to create an eCitizen account to transact from anywhere provided they have internet access.
The ministry has also said it will provide cybercafés at its registries.
The new system enables users to pay land rents electronically and be issued with clearance certificates online.
Also available online are payments for stamp duty, registration and consent fees.
However, one will need to be physically present at the registry in case of an application for registration, the original instrument and title document after payment of stamp duty where applicable.
Mr Gichuhi also faulted what he said was lack of a provision for verification of documents presented in land transactions, and the provision that some consents, which legally require physical presence, will be given online.
On Wednesday, he insisted that lawyers remain an integral part in the process and cannot be replaced, unless the law is amended.
“The notice purported to say that any person could lodge a transfer of land. It is like you have doctors who have gone through school, then you say now even witch doctors will come and operate on you.”
The ministry has clarified that lawyers will still be allowed to start the transfer of lands.
“The conveyancing and security instruments such as transfers, charges, and discharges which are by law required to be prepared by qualified persons, will continue to be so drawn,” Lands Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri said on Sunday.
“Execution and attestation of such instruments will similarly continue to be done in accordance with the law.”