- Interview. Registering land was one of the biggest challenges in Uganda until the intervention of World Bank through the Competitiveness and Enterprise Development Project (CEDP). Ms Dorcas W. Okalany, the permanent secretary, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development explains to Daily Monitor’s Sarah Aanyu why the reforms were undertaken, the early results, opportunities and the challenges that still exist.
What necessitated the implementation of the land component under the World Bank supported Project called CEDP?
Until 2013, the land registry in Uganda run a manual system of record keeping.
As the numbers of records and transactions grew from just a few transactions in 1908 to more than 1,000 transactions per day at a centralised location in 2010, it came with challenges and a big public outcry. There were issues of inefficiencies, inadequate space, laborious and bureaucratic and long processes, which were prone to human error such as loss of documents, made land transactions a nightmare to clients.
The government noticed that these were fundamental issues with far reaching impact not only on the economy but also compromised security of tenure. The reforms and the computerisation of the land management system therefore was a response to these challenges.
What areas in land management are being tackled under this project?
The most critical land reforms are being implemented. They include the installation of the Land Information System, which has decentralised service delivery and digitalised the land records, issuance of freehold titles to land owners, protection of customary land, provision of capacity building interventions for land administrators to work within conducive environments, the development of National Physical Development Plan (NPDP) that has never been done since independence and public awareness on the new procedures and processes for executing land transactions.
What have you achieved and what do you aim to achieve under CEDP?
The hallmark of the land reform is creating an enabling environment for business enterprises to transact and invest. It starts with a basic function like a search for title details. It now takes not more than two hours to issue a search letter from the government One Stop Shop located at Uganda Registration Services Bureau.
While this may seem basic, timely feedback and transparency is important for business in ascertaining land ownership.
We have opened 13 Zonal offices in Kampala, Wakiso Mukono, Jinja, Mbarara, Masaka, Lira, Kibaale Kabarole. Gulu, Arua, Masindi and Mbale to reduce on time spent by the private sector and land owners coming to headquarters to carry out land transactions
We are extending service delivery to eight others including Moroto, Soroti, Tororo, Luwero (Bukalasa), Mityana, Kabale, Rukungiri and Mpigi. The entire infrastructure to deliver this has been successfully tested to improve land administration, land use planning functions, including development of GIS databases and preparation of physical development plans at the national, regional, district and local levels.
We are building capacity for land valuation functions, including reviewing the policy and legal framework, developing valuation data bases and systems and collecting field data, developing capacity in the public and private sector.
All these is intended for effective service delivery. We have linked the system with other government agencies and made it a requirement for any land owner to avail a National Identity Card in order to process transactions.
URA has already incorporated payment details and so it is easy to track any transaction. Most important, we have developed the National Physical Development Plan (NPDP) for the country to be guided by planned development.
A lot of individual and communally owned land remains unregistered. This is a real concern for business enterprises and also investors. How much of this challenge have you tackled so far?
We have piloted successful demarcation and registration of individual lands in selected rural and peri-urban districts of Jinja, Sheema and Apac.
My ministry has also registered more than 200 communal land associations in Karamoja, Bunyoro and central region as legal entities that can hold and own customary land. This has been done with our partners such as PELUM, Uganda Land Alliance, Mercy Corps and Land Code.
In the Acholi Sub-region, the Ministry has joined hands with the Joint Acholi Sub-regional Leaders Forum, Trociare, ZOA, UCOBAC and the district local governments to engage customary land owners on the best way of legally protecting customary land that are acceptable to the community.
We are all in agreement that registration of customary land will protect the land rights of all land owners and will result in opening up significant investments and increased incomes.
What should Ugandans therefore expect from the CEDP programme?
The current trend shows that our land services have tremendously improved.
Before the CEDP intervention, it used to take three to five years to get a land title. Now it takes 30 days and we still want to reduce this to 25 days. A search is now done within two hours after payment of search fees, which is Shs10, 000.
This is what will trigger a digital business economy. If all land information from the various land administration institutions is linked to other institutions doing business in Uganda, the competitiveness story will have been written. For this to happen, we must create a strong foundation for scaling land registration up to about 50 percent within five years to strengthen land tenure security, better manage government-owned land, and promote productivity of titled land through sustainable land use. We are committed to achieving this as well as regaining the trust of all Ugandan land owners and users.