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Columnists

Priority funding for digitisation of land records timely

Ardhi House
Ardhi House in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani presented the Budget Thursday, paving way for Parliament to discuss his proposals for the 2020/21 financial year. I was keen to see the menu that he prescribes for the land sector.

Collapsed within the cluster of Agriculture, Rural and Urban Development (ARUD), the land sector budget has remained quite modest. The sector is responsible for the technical processes through which Kenyans access and own land, regulate its use and ensure tenure security. It therefore directly supports the four pillars through provision of land for housing and for food security.

Indeed, a good inventory of the public land available in the country would be a boon for investments, including manufacturing, another of the four pillars. Access to land and secure land rights incentivize the growth of many other sectors of the economy.

To ensure tenure security, there ought to be good custody and maintenance of the pertinent land records. Land sector budgets should therefore enable the country to perfect the processes that help Kenyans to access land, hold and confidently work it for our social-economic needs.

Traditionally, the land sector development budget has leaned towards land administration, mapping planning, adjudication and settlement matters, the core technical functions around which programmes would be shaped. But lately there has been accelerated titling. Kenya now boasts of over ten million titles.

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Each title associates with a set of documents or maps, making Kenya’s volume of records pretty high. Sector budgets therefore need to swing towards supporting the establishment of systems that help to preserve and share these records efficiently.

The coming into office of the National Land Commission also called for a stretch of the land sector budget in order to accommodate its programmes.

So as I perused the expenditure framework on which the land sector budget was based, I was happy to notice that there is a gradual swing to provide funds for the programmes that should inform today’s priorities.

I was for instance happy to notice that a good proportion of the Land ministry’s budget will go towards the development of a land information management system.

This system will ensure the digitisation of land records, and their dissemination and transactions online. If funding for this item is sustained, then we shall gradually be able to establish this system.

Funding has been set aside for the establishment of land registries. In constructing these new registries, let us avoid the brick and mortar approach.

Future registries will be information technology driven, in line with the modern land information system under development. Let the registries be completely futuristic. Allocation has also been set aside for the development of a land value index.

I am happy that the national land commission budget factors in allocations for a public land information system and a public land inventory. The public land information system is critical for the effective management of our public land records.

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