“According to Judge Anthony Ndung`u the digital system is the way to end land fraud and promote investor confidence “. He added that the country was in the digital age and those opposed to the system were against the change, comparing it to the digital television migration which had been opposed by some people in the country
A section of civil rights activists is in the process of challenging the recent ruling by the high court that gave a nod to the ministry of lands to abandon the use of a manual system at the ministry’s registry. Last week High Court Judge Anthony Ndung`u made a ruling where he said that the decision to digitize land processing at the ministry was above board.
The Judge said in his ruling that stakeholders were consulted before the former ministry of lands CS Farida Karoney introduced the system known as Ardhisasa Platform. “According to me the digital system is the way to end land fraud and promote investor confidence, “ruled the Judge. He added that the country was in the digital age and those opposed to the system were against the change, comparing it to the digital television migration which had been opposed by some people in the country.
In the case filed by lawyer Samuel Gitonga, CS Farida Karoney had been sued alongside then-Attorney General Kihara Kariuki and the National Land Commission for being behind the pushing of digital operations at the ministry.
Mr Gitonga had in his argument claimed that the ministry never consulted stakeholders before ending the manual transactions at the ministry. The lawyer in his submissions claimed that CS Karoney ‘s decision to alter the mode of operations at the Nairobi and Central land registries was against the law. He at the same time added that operations at the Nairobi lands registry at Ardhi house had stalled since dealings had been digitized yet the Ardhisasa Digital Platform was not fully operational.
“The directive has caused the government to lose a lot in revenue since land transactions have stalled, “added Mr Gitonga. In his arguments, Mr Gitonga added that Ardhisasa like other digital systems required a manual backup to run concurrently if the electronic system was rendered ineffective, the former CS and AG Kariuki opposed the case.
The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) were also roped in the case as interested parties where KBA argued that there were many challenges when it came to the effective use of the Ardhisasa Platform. KBA argued that if records have not been updated, one cannot pay land rate or obtain a land rent clearance certificate which is required if you are securing a loan from a financial institution.
The association went on to state in court that one cannot register a charge if those records have not been updated on the platform. KBA too claimed in court that there should be a hybrid system to ensure that no transaction was left pending owing to system challenges. In a survey carried out by The Weekly Vision at Ardhi house, we established that there was slow progress of work at the ministry headquarters. Several workers alleged that the digital platform was not working.
“Work here is not going on because the digital platform is not working. Part of it was because the designers of the system who are designers in IT failed to teach people (workers) how to use the system. They hurriedly did their work and went away without teaching us, “said one employee.
One of the contributing factors for the system failing to work well or working slowly was because many people don`t have smartphones and the poor internet connectivity in some parts of the country, connecting to the system at Ardhi house was a major challenge. The workers said that they were supporting an initiative by some civil rights activists to move to the Appeal Court to challenge the ruling by Judge Ndung`u as it touched on the rights of many Kenyans on matters related to land and the working condition of many employees at the ministry who may be rendered jobless without following the right channel.
They said that they were waiting for the new lands Cabinet Secretary Zack Njeru to settle in office and hold a meeting with him so that he can advise President William Ruto to help revise the use of the digital platform at the ministry or have both manual and digital form be used altogether.
“This system which was launched by former President Uhuru Kenyatta after he was convinced that it was good cost millions of shillings and as you can see it’s not functional and we may go back to the drawing board by either abandoning it or using both systems, manual and digital to make work easy and serve Kenyans well, “said a lands ministry official.
By C. Wanzallah