The relationship Kenyans have with their parcels of land is almost romantic.
However, many landowners struggle to understand processes in land adjudication and administration, which are often seen as complicated.
In March 2021, the Land Development and Governance Institute (LDGI) collected data from citizens across the country to evaluate the status of land governance. A total of 1,036 people were interviewed in 34 counties.
The study found that difficulty in access to information was one of the main barriers to successful land administration. Others are corruption in lands departments, cost of service and the time it takes to secure those services.
LDGI discovered that the most sought-after service was land search at 26 per cent, followed by approval of purchase at 20 per cent.
While 11 per cent of the respondents ranked access to information as very easy and 21 per cent as easy, 23 per cent said it was difficult, while 15 per cent ranked it as very difficult.
Worse, in access to information on community land registration, 41 per cent of the respondents ranked it as difficult. Only five per cent ranked it as very easy, with16 per cent ranking it as easy.
For public land, 69 per cent of the respondents were dissatisfied with the performance of the National Land Commission (NLC) in monitoring and overseeing land use planning at county level.
“Most respondents, 81 per cent, were dissatisfied with the performance of NLC on investigation of present and historical land injustices and their appropriate redress,” LDGI said.
“Majority were of the view that information on public land was not readily available.”
Access to information from the Environment and Land Court is a huge challenge to most of the citizens, with 52 per cent of the respondents ranking it as difficult, while 12 per cent ranked it as very difficult. Only 18 per cent said it was easy while a similar number termed it fair.
As noted by numerous reports over time, corruption remains a great hindrance to service delivery at lands offices across the country, LDGI said.
More than half of the respondents, 51 per cent, still found that corruption was rife in land transactions.
“The survey showed varying levels of corruption across the different departments,” said LDGI.
“Cases of missing documents, request for ‘fuel money’ to conduct site visits, unofficial payments without receipts, exclusive use of brokers to get services and favouritism were cited as indications of questionable practices undermining integrity in lands offices.”
There was also access to services by brokers after office hours and staff within the offices collaborating with some outside members to grab land from helpless people.
“To eliminate corruption, there should be reforms in land management institutions (that) should include strengthening the structures and upgrading systems to ensure transparency, accountability and efficiency,” the survey report said.
“Access to information is also key to reducing corruption. When citizens are informed and know their rights, it increases their level of participation and they are in a position to hold these institutions accountable.
“There is need to end impunity in land governance institutions; corrupt officials must be prosecuted.”
While the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning introduced an online land search option for the Nairobi Registry, hosted on the government’s e-Citizen platform in September 2015, 82 per cent of the respondents interviewed were not aware of the existence of the system while 18 per cent were aware.
Majority of citizens were dissatisfied with the time taken to complete processes at lands offices.
Turnaround times for transactions carried out at lands offices were poorly ranked with 28 per cent of respondents rating it as very slow and 25 per cent rating it as slow. While 26 per cent rated it as fair, only 15 per cent rated it as timely.
“We recommend the employment of more staff and adequate funding to ensure availability of resources to implement their functions,” said LDGI.
Further, 59 per cent of the respondents were dissatisfied with the time taken by the Land and Environment Court.
“The cost of seeking justice under the Environment and Land Court was unaffordable to majority (68 per cent) of the respondents,” the survey report said.