Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney and Permanent Secretary Nicholas Muraguri are facing the test of their careers as they steer the migration of land transactions to an electronic platform.
Turf wars between the ministry and the National Land Commission (NLC), which have stalled land reforms since 2012, have re-emerged and threaten the ambitious plans to shift archaic manual land transaction procedures to electronic systems in order to improve efficiency.
Successive leadership at Ardhi House has been overwhelmed by the reform demands of the docket since 2003, by being out of their depth, falling into cartel capture, and old habits.
The National Land Policy (Sessional Paper No. 3 of 2009) recommended that the country shifts its old land transactions process to the National Land Information Management System to improve efficiency, affordability, security of tenure and confidence in land ownership documents.
For the first time since the efforts began, the Lands ministry published draft regulations needed to give effect to the policy — a milestone of historic proportions.
It turns out, however, that the ministry by-passed the NLC in formulating regulations relating to the commission’s legal mandate. This oversight threatens to send the entire process to ground zero unless some drastic intervention happens to accommodate NLC’s demands.
Since the 2010 Constitution provided for creation of the NLC and vested it with the bulk of powers and functions formerly held by the ministry, the two institutions have been at loggerheads on various occasions.
LITTLE VALUE ADDED
The fighting has been distracting for both institutions, with little value added to service delivery, resolving of corruption getting in the way of unlocking the land sector’s enormous potential in firing economic growth.
The Lands ministry published proposed legal amendments to a raft of land laws to provide for creation of a new layer of bureaucratic offices, for which it is collecting public views since May 7.
In the current fight, the NLC has disowned the proposed regulations and law amendments published by the ministry, providing for electronic migration, and the legitimacy of the task force that generated them.
In a stinging rejoinder to Ms Karoney dated May 7, NLC chairman Gershom Otachi dismissed the draft Land Transactions (Electronic) Regulations 2020, as legally invalid.
“The NLC has never contemplated, nor resolved to propose any regulations nor originated such an idea... as such the notice published in the media is misleading,” Mr Otachi, wrote.
He also accused the ministry of ambushing the NLC with the regulations by serving him with a copy on the afternoon of May 5 and running the advert 24 hours later before NLC could respond,
The said notice had purported that the proposed regulations were the joint work of the ministry and NLC.
By disowning both the Karoney task force that generated the draft regulations, and the regulations themselves, NLC has essentially bastardised the entire exercise. The country may, therefore, have to wait longer.
Among the unresolved questions are why the Lands ministry by-passed the NLC, and if Parliament can compel the two institutions to sort out the fiasco without additional costs to the taxpayer.