Nairobi buildings approval resumes Thursday

Maj-Gen Mohammed Badi

Director-General of Nairobi Metropolitan Services Maj-Gen Mohammed Badi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Approval of development plans in Nairobi will resume on Thursday after almost three weeks of suspension, Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) has said.

This follows the restoration of the electronic application system that was hacked into, giving the attackers room to ‘approve’ 18 construction plans.

NMS director-general Mohamed Badi said they have sealed a loophole in the online system that the hackers manipulated.

Last week, developers in Nairobi raised concern that they were staring at losing at least Sh10 billion every month following the suspension of approval of development plans with Kenya Institute of Planners (KIP) chairperson Joakim Nyarangi saying NMS receives between 200 and 250 high-end investment applications worth hundreds of millions through the system every two weeks.

“We suspended the system to seal the loophole that the hackers were using to make illegal approvals. We then called in technology experts from the Ministry of ICT and it took us almost two weeks to get the system rectified. From Thursday we are beginning the processing again,” said Mr Badi.

Unique identification

NMS had early this month froze approval of development plans after hackers breached the online system.

The hackers gained access to the system’s Quick Response (QR) code and effected illegal approvals, prompting a shutdown.

The QR system is part of the e-construction development plan application system used for final approval of building plans and construction permits.

The system provides unique electronic identification of all approved architectural and structural plans, eliminating the need for physical stamping of hard copies of development plans.

Major General Badi pointed out that the breach led to at least 18 illegal building approvals being ‘approved’ by the hackers.

The NMS boss said the hackers were City Hall staff who colluded with outsiders in the breach.

Upgrade hitch

However, he said, some of the hackers have since been arrested after the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) was alerted. Investigations are continuing.

Mr Badi said that the illegal entry was due to lack of upgrading of the e-construction system for the past four years, hence creating the loopholes.

He pointed out that City Hall was to take over maintenance of the system after it was handed over by the World Bank three years ago and upgrade it, but that did not happen.

“Unfortunately, after the one year grace period of handing over to the county, the lease of maintenance by the World Bank’s contractor ceased and the county was supposed to take over and upgrade it. That system has not been upgraded for the last four years,” he said.