Sunday February 10 2013

‘Digitalising lands registry will end title fraud’

Josephat Macheta

Josephat Macheta 

By John Tugume

1. You have finished a process of data conversion for the ministry of lands. Briefly explain to us what the process entailed.
Data conversion process entailed design and configuration of the conversion workflow in the Land Information System (LIS) to capture different tenures that included mailo, leasehold and freehold tiles and registration documents.

The files were then vetted to identify and eliminate all forged documents, double allocation and other problems related to titles registration. This step was very important to ensure a clean automated system.
The vetting process was carried out by lands registrars from the ministry and the files that passed the vetting step were given to COSEKE project team to continue with other processes that included; data input of basic file details to create bar-codes information, printing and bar-coding on each file, indexing of more files metadata, including volume and folio for leaseholds and freeholds, plot and block for mailo titles, parties, encumbrances etc., rehabilitation and sorting of each file, scanning, quality check (the documents were reviewed to ensure quality control of the information entered and images in accordance with original files and recommended standards), files storage in proper chronological order and creation of an electronic catalogue for easy tracing.

Note that, mailo titles were to be consolidated first before vetting. The consolidation process entailed putting together each title with all its corresponding supportive documents that were initially stored separately at different locations.
The same process was carried out for about 8,000 Job Records Jackets (JRJ); these are survey records at Entebbe mapping and survey office.
We scanned about 16,500 cadastral maps that were eventually vectorised by IGN FI, a lead Company in the Consortium.
Finally, together with IGN FI we carried out Data Integration (to link land parcels to title registers data by unique parcel identifier).

2. What is the composition of the consortium
The consortium is composed by IGN-France International- a lead Company, Thomson Reuters and Coseke Uganda Limited.

3. How will this project impact on the ministry of lands?
The implementation of a Land Information System will contribute to major changes in the country including;
A better service delivery to the public since the files will easily and faster be accessed both electronically and physically; hence faster response to the clients. There will be easy and fast update of registration records. Double allocation and duplicates will easily be identified and addressed by the respective officials – to be easily detected by the system.
The lands registries will be well organised and secured.
Vetted title registration files – guarantees the authenticity of the captured electronic version of the records and eliminates forged titles.
The LIS in Uganda will provide accessible, accountable, efficient, transparent land administration services. It will discourage informal and un-registered transactions which sometimes result in fraud.

4. What was the scope of coverage for all the land tenures in Uganda and how many land titles have you converted for instance.
The scope of coverage of data conversion was as follows; 350,000 mailo titles and supportive documents, 150,000 lease hold and freehold; 8,000 job record jackets and 16,500 cadastral maps. Total estimated records for mailo, leasehold and free holds was 500,000 files. As of now we have completed at least 8,000 JRJs, 16,500 cadastral maps and at least 480,000 files (mailo, leasehold and freehold). The native leasehold files for Mbarara will be completed anytime soon.

5. How will the real estate and land owners benefit from this project?
A major motivator for the LIS on the real estate and land owners was to deal with the high rate of fraud in the land sector. Paper records are easy to forge, it is said a whole industry exists around Nasser and Nkrumah roads in Kampala where titles can be manufactured within a matter of minutes. Paper records also make it possible for unscrupulous individuals to either alter or altogether make records disappear.
The manual system was tedious, causing major delays to business but also providing a major incentive for corruption by people seeking to facilitate quick searches. The project eliminates all this by making information available at the click of a button.
The LIS project will increase confidence in the real estate agents, mortgage finance organisations and private developers. It will increase confidence in land buyers as well as stimulating the economy because land information will be available to the public as and when one needs to use it for any one given purpose.
Land encroachments, multiple sales of residential parcels will be avoided with the new system. The LIS will reduce the time and cost involved in transferring property rights and in processing documents like mortgages.

6. In the context of decentralisation, how will this project benefit the local government districts, especially upcountry?
Having converted the lands records, they have now been transferred to their respective districts where transactions will be taking place. This will help the local people access easily their titles at the district level other than what it had been to only access them in Kampala for even just searches on their titles.
The land information system will increase their productivity, save costs in terms of transport, accommodation etc. for follow ups on land issues at the head quarters.
The retrieval of titles has been made easy due to computerisation and decentralisation. With the use of the system, files can easily be traced and accessed online at their respective districts. This will ultimately eliminate long lines in the corridors of the ministry.

7. What were some of the challenges during the process and how did you overcome them?
During the conversion process, there was a communication gap between the consortium that was implementing the project and the public which sometimes caused a miss-understanding of the relevance of the project to people. For example, delays in files retrieval for transaction by the public; the blame was put onto the consortium where as the fact was that files had to go through a long automation process before they were released for transaction. The processes included vetting, data input, bar-coding, indexing, rehabilitation, scanning, refilling, quality control and back to storage and creation of electronic catalogue. Problematic files had to take even longer during vetting to resolve the issues aroused. As mentioned above, garbage in garbage out, therefore thorough vetting before automation was very important.
The nature of the documents was in a sorry state hence demanding a lot of time and resources to rehabilitate them for the information to be clearly captured since they were as old as 1908.
The conversion processes run concurrently with the ministry activities. This caused some delays in availing some urgent files as were needed for transactions by the public.