Projects suspended as hackers breach Nairobi building approval system


Hundreds of construction sector jobs and multibillion-shilling property investments have been frozen after hackers breached the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) online application system, forcing a suspension of development plan approvals.

Hackers gained access to the system’s Quick Response (QR) code and effected numerous illegal approvals, prompting officials to shut it down.

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

The system provides unique electronic identification of all approved architectural and structural plans, eliminating the need for property developers to submit hard copies of development plans for physical stamping as a mark of final approval.

NMS Deputy Director-General Kangethe Thuku confirmed the breach and suspension of approvals.

“We discovered that the e-construction system was recently hacked into and we have stopped using that system for the time being as we look for a solution,” Mr Thuku said.

The breach was unearthed following concerns raised by the Kenya Alliance of Residents Association (Kara) about rising cases of constructions of buildings in zoned-off areas that go against floor policies of such zones, especially in Muthaiga North. This is, however, not the first time that NMS has suspended the QR code system. The online system was launched by City Hall on March 29, 2020, but was later suspended in May that year when NMS took over together with the e-construction development plans application system before coming up with the current system, the e-construction development control system.

This was after President Uhuru Kenyatta directed Maj-Gen Badi to take control of the system and weed out cartels who had taken over the approvals sector creating a backlog of 4,400 unprocessed development projects applications at the time. The QR system was only restored in November last year.

Mr Thuku said the system has made it easier to approve development plans since its rollout with at least 7,299 development applications approved in just under a year.

Further, the elimination of the physical contact of stamping documents has helped reduce corruption in the process of approving construction permits.

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