10,000 missing land files found in Lands headquarters

Lands was revealed after some 10,000 files that had gone “missing” were discovered during an audit of the central registry.

Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu said the files had been ‘missing’ for a long time, which had frustrated members of the public needing access to the documents. “It is a major step forward for us as aministry since we launched the audit. Efforts to locate the files at the archives never bore fruit in the past, denying Kenyans services,” Ngilu declared. She spoke on Sunday when she conducted the media on a tour of the registry at Ardhi House to assess progress of the audit.

Ngilu did not explain the nature of the files, but it is known officials declare they cannot locate a file in order to induce one to part with a bribe or cover up other vices like double allocations.

The files may also involve pricey properties that unscrupulous officials have their eyes on, or whose owners are kept faceless.

It also emerged that police were interrogating a member of the registry staff allegedly caught sneaking files out of Ardhi House during the audit.

The woman was reportedly arrested on Friday while trying to sneak out of her office with the crucial files. She was taken to the Capitol Hill Police Station where she was released on bond pending furtherinvestigations. Details of the files she was allegedly carting away are yet to be made public.

“This seems to be something that had been ongoing here and that is why we want to know from her if she knows more before we take further action,” said an official aware of the probe.

MANUAL SYSTEM

Ngilu explained that the 10-day audit would be completed on May 19 as earlier planned, and that it was necessary to put in place the electronic system of file archiving to replace the manual system now in use.

President Uhuru Kenyatta toured the registry last Thursday and said its digitisation would improve service delivery.

“In the past with the analogue filing system it was difficult to know where a file was, who had the file or which office and what action was being done on the file. As a result many would not get the services that they badly needed,” Ngilu explained.

The CS said those opposed to the exercise were beneficiaries of the corrupt and chaotic system, and that once the reforms were complete cartels would have nowhere to hide.

“The ministry must now conduct good and clean business that benefits all Kenyans, not a few individuals. These people have no business here and their days are numbered,” Ngilu said.

While assuring Kenyans that the ministry would make up for the time lost during the closure, she lauded the digitisation as a more efficient and effective way to deliver services.

“Many Kenyans have been complaining of the tedious process involved at our offices as it took more than three months to wait for a file to be processed at thelands registry. The 10-day closure will, however, help in providing more efficient services for the general public,” she said.

The cabinet secretary blamed some officials for colluding to frustrate and make it hard for the ministry to institute reforms.

“I have heard many people make noise around that the closure is denying the Government revenue and delaying service delivery. The truth is that the Government was losing more than twice the revenue collected here to corruption cartels,” Ngilu said.

The clean-up process is being done by the ministry officials with the help of 200 students of Kenyatta University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, who work on day and night shifts.

TEMPORARY CLOSURE

The National Land Commission (NLC) last week sued Ngilu for the temporary closure of key offices at the ministry, saying the exercise was preventing the commission from discharging its constitutional functions and denying Kenyans land services.

The processes that have stalled for the period of closure include registration of land documents, searches, stamp duty and land rates payment, applications for valuation and processing, payment of allotments, applications for subdivision of land, settlement programmes and land adjudication.

With the banking hall being closed, registration of land documents, searches, stamp duty payments, land rent payment and application for valuations and processing are other services temporarily halted.

President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the premises and said the reforms were necessary to improve service delivery.

Last week Ngilu opened the National Titling Centre at the Survey of Kenya that will see Kenyans get titles within seven days upon application, in an exercise targeting to issue Kenyans with some one million land ownership documents by the end of the year.

At the same time, NLC has ignored Ngilu’s request to stop the recruitment of county land management board (CLMBs) members.

NLC has published a list of shortlisted candidates for the boards and set the dates for interviews despite Ngilu’s reservations.

The Swazuri-led commission is set to commence interviewing 1,065 candidates from a list of 1,800 who applied in all the 47 counties.

It has consequently invited the public to give information about the applicants in accordance with the constitutional requirement of public participation.

In an advert appearing in the local dailies, NLC Chief Executive Officer Tom Chavanga, however, said the shortlisted candidates will be informed on the interview date.

Ngilu and National Land Commission officials met on Friday to resolve their differences.

The meeting at Ardhi House, was chaired by Solicitor General Njee Muturi and ran into the evening. Details of the meeting were scanty.

“We don’t know what they discussed. Muturi came and told them he had been sent to mediate,” said an insider. Muturi is said to have been sent by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who felt the differences between Ngilu and NLC were not helpful. – The Standard

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