Uganda: ‘No more land title fraud’
After almost 113 years in print, the Uganda Land Registry is adopting an all-digital format this year. And in this interview, Lands, Housing and Urban Development Minister Daudi Migereko tells Sulaiman Kakaire that the results are very encouraging.
Migereko explains how foolproof the digital land titles would be.
I understand the ministry has been closed since December; did you have to shut down the whole ministry?
It is true the ministry offices throughout the country have been closed since December. And I know it has caused some inconvenience, which we highly regret but the only explanation I can give is that the cause of the closure is a justifiable one.
The ministry is in the process of computerizing the land registry and we are in the process of building an efficient land system that is sustainable and simplified. In so doing, by implication, we put on hold transactions in the sector, closed the dealings at the registry until the infrastructure has been set up. But, what I can say is that we should be opening at the end of this month or anytime very soon.
You are talking about computerizing the land registry, what does this mean?
This involves capacity to put together information about land in a digital format so that it can be kept in a digital way for easy access. The ministry is documenting information about land, where it is, who are the owners and what activities and physical infrastructure are on it.
And, once we have gathered and verified this information, it will be stored in digital format. In an ordinary sense, this is going to replace the manual system where people have been accessing their land titles.
In digital format, they will retrieve them in a timely manner through a click away. So, ideally, this will enable easy access to land titles since everything will be on the system and it can be accessed at any point in the country. Besides, we had always found a weakness in the maintenance of land records in the hard format. Additionally, registration will be online and everything is online.
You are spending 10 million dollars on this project, but isn’t that too expensive?
We have been having the manual system since 1900. And, Uganda is part of the world where almost every country has abandoned the manual system. But, what we intend to achieve is to come up with an accurate, accessible and efficient way to use the land registry.
This will help everyone have easy access to information concerning land matters. It is true the project seems to be expensive but what I can say is that it is worth it because it will help us have a clear, accurate and reliable computerized registry that is accessible. Basically, we want to have a system that can simplify government’s work in decision-making.
Besides, this initiative will also help and simplify the work of financial institutions and people dealing in land transactions because if the ministry keeps land information that is reliable and accessible, it is easy for the banks to eliminate cases of fraudulent transactions.
Meanwhile, the general public will have clear knowledge about their land ownership and this will help in eliminating cases of fraud and forgery. So, our main target is to have an accurate land registry that is accessible and reliable.
So, how would an illiterate person understand the new system?
It is [going] to be eased. There are processes that one will go through to access their land title and the public will be sensitized about this. The only issue I can tell the general public is that you need to avoid forest reserves and wetlands because during the registration process if you give information purporting to cover such lands, it will be rejected by the system.
What are you going to do for people without titles, for instance in Busoga?
What I can say is that no one is going to lose their land, even those who don’t have titles. We are going to verify all these and make sure that the data which is entered in regard to ownership is accurate.
Actually, there are claims that inaccurate information is being entered into the system.
It is good that you have called them claims because to the best of my knowledge, there is no one who has access to our new system apart from our technical people. So, whoever is circulating that falsehood is up to something.
We believe that this is something that can be handled. If you bring a title to us and the operators make a mistake in entering the information, we have the verification process which can detect the fraud. Actually, there is a possibility of people in the system conniving to enter inaccurate information but we have set up measures to deal with that.
But, the fraud in the land registry seems to be rampant; how are you going to weed it out?
This is one of the ways to handle fraud in the registry. We also have to address issues of manpower, attitude and it has to be a package because this is not an easy task. In order to successfully weed out the fraud and forgeries in the ministry, we want to set up a system that has capacity to detect all sorts of fraud.
How prepared are you for the problem of computer hackers?
The issue is to anticipate this and put in place a system and measures that can eliminate such occurrences.
How far have you gone with the exercise?
We are through with the first phase which involved the setting up of the infrastructure of Kampala, Mukono, Jinja, Wakiso, Mbarara and Masaka. We started with these districts because this is where we find 85% of the land titles in Uganda.
And we hope to complete the whole exercise in the next few months. But in the meantime, we are sensitizing the general public about the initiative.
There are complaints that you have delayed.
I can understand what they are complaining about but I am also complaining at a personal level. However, what we need to understand is that we need to have a sustainable and reliable system, which the delay is [all about].
Everything comes with a cost. We promise that very soon a system will be in place to address all the challenges; so, we should not complain about the delay but our main concern should be about having a good system.
Your last word.
I know people have a lot of concerns about the land sector and it forms part of our livelihood because it is the main backbone to our economy. But I want to assure everyone that we are working very hard to make sure that we have a system that is efficient and reliable.
And this will only be archived if we put all our hands together.