In November last year, the Lands Commission announced to the Public that it had moved from its manual systems unto an online platform to render a more efficient service to the public.
This news was welcomed by many as a step in the right direction since a lot had suffered several losses as a result of unreliable land information and systems for years.
Months into the implementation of this digitization exercise, has the Lands Commission fulfilled its promise of providing more efficient service to the Public? To answer this question, I am doing so with my experience with the system over the past few months of implementation.
Like I mentioned earlier, all players in the real estate industry such as developers, banks, lawyers, consultants, brokers, etc. were optimistic about the launch of a system which was solve the several problems in the land sector.
Problems such as delay in receiving; search reports, approved site plans, title registration, Consents processing and plotting, assessment and payment of stamp duty, and all services from the commission, existed before the implementation and it was the hope of industry players that these challenges would have been resolved through this exercise. Unfortunately, I can say that the results have been different.
The Lands Commission is still faced with the challenge of providing the efficient services as they announced. Search reports continue to delay, some over months, with no reason. This has affected a lot of people including banks, since these reports are required to satisfy ones due diligence needs and further commit funds in real estate transactions.
The ripple effect of delayed search reports includes, low rate mortgage advancements by banks, business suffering to secure loans with real estate as collateral, increase in fraudulent transactions since some impatient buyers end up paying for properties without receiving official reports but rather rely on ‘unofficial reports’ as may be obtained through some unapproved means at the Lands Commission.
Not only search reports have been impacted but also processing of consents to assign, sublease or mortgage ones property where the properties involved are state lands and stool lands especially.
The unreasonable delays in the process has caused many to lose capital revenue, inability to acquire homes or obtain loan facilities with real estate.
This can be said to have had a great impact in the economy since Bank’s who would have created assets by lending with real estate as collateral are unable to do that at a fast pace or at all.
Usually, people apply for loans when the funds are needed and such funds must be availed in timely manner to serve the purpose.
Can you imagine applying for a loan to clear goods from port and it takes you 6 months to obtain consent to mortgage. The effects would be so grave. The same can be said about contractors who require funds to complete projects within a given time.
Even in the context of property buyers, sometimes the buyer may have little time to purchase the property and move in and may be faced with the challenge of completing paper works with greatly lies with Lands Commission to complete the process.
Property sellers also become cash strapped and are unable to complete other projects, repay their debts with financial institutions and so on.
It has been noted that the Lands Commission’s digitization has caused more harm than good after implementation. The situation appears to be worse than before as nothing or very little is working.
Since this project is a collaboration between the Lands Commission and the Officer of the Vice President, I make a passionate appeal for this project to be relooked at.
I strongly recommend that the implementation of the online service be done concurrently with the manual process until all challenges with the new system has been resolved. This would help curb some of the effects the industry is currently faced with.
I further recommend that the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources take steps to ensure efficiency at the Lands Commission since their activities have serious socio-economic effects.
Involvement of stakeholders and the private sector is a sure way to go since it is obvious that the Commission by itself is not capable of resolving the issues alone. I also advise the private sector to offer some help to the Commission. #Help the Lands Commission to be Helped.
The writer is a Valuation & Estate Surveyor Alternative Dispute Resolution Practitioner