Editorials

Nairobi needs foolproof buildings approval tool

City-hall

An aerial view of Nairobi City Hall. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • City Hall confirmed that hackers gained access to the system’s Quick Response (QR) code and effected illegal approvals, prompting a shut down.
  • The QR system is part of the e-construction development plans application used for building plans and construction permits.

Reports that criminals hacked into the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) online development plan approval system is a serious matter that deserves comprehensive investigation.

City Hall confirmed that hackers gained access to the system’s Quick Response (QR) code and effected illegal approvals, prompting a shut down. The QR system is part of the e-construction development plans application used for building plans and construction permits.

Shockingly, the breach was discovered following concerns raised by the Kenya Alliance of Residents Association (Kara) about rising cases of construction in zoned-off areas that go against floor policies of such zones, especially in Muthaiga North.

This is grave because investments worth billions of shillings are approved on this system, meaning that Nairobi loses revenue for every plan that is not channelled through its formal systems.

Of deeper concern is that the illegal approvals compromise the safety of residents and leaves investors at risk of costly suits by City Hall whenever developments are found to be in breach of the planning code.

Suspending the system every often due to breaches is also costly to investors and hundreds of construction sector workers and the NMS must put its act together.

Nairobi County must move swiftly and take decisive steps that would stop future breaches on the approval system. It is not the first time that the NMS has suspended the QR code system due to illegal access by criminals.

The NMS should conduct an urgent audit on the integrity of the approval system to seal the loopholes.

The threats of hacks on electronic systems have increased as more public services are migrated online and the NMS must invest in foolproof technology to safeguard the integrity of its platform.

The investigations should also look into the possible misconduct by some officials in charge of the day-to-day operation of the system. Those found culpable of delinquency should be punished to deter such behaviour.

The benefits of the online approval system are many and the NMS must not lose the fight to crooks.