By Treezer Michelle Atieno
Land is a vital asset in Kenya, and its acquisition and registration must follow the legal process outlined by law. The crucial stages of purchasing land entail obtaining a land search, which requires at least three days, acquiring land transfer documents such as rates clearance certificates that can take up to ten days to process, getting a valuation for stamp duty that may require anywhere from one week to one month, making the stamp duty payment, which takes four days to confirm and, finally, registering the property itself, which can take at least twelve days or longer.
Unfortunately, I have observed an alarming trend in public office transactions related to land dealings in Kenya. If you need any documentation relating to deeds or consent forms for loans on your property, there exists an option of using a special board.
“When I required a title deed for my newly purchased land,” confesses Tom Nyagah, who resides within Kiambu County, “I was forced to pay Ksh. 15000 so that the special board could issue me with it within twenty four hours.”
The Kenyan government established the Special Board for Land Matters to specifically handle land transactions through the National Land Commission Act (2012). The board charges Ksh. 5000 to hasten meetings and transactions associated with land.
“If you want to motivate the special board even more, you can pay more than just Ksh 5000. That way, you can get the service in a few hours, depending on the availability of the officers to meet,” adds Nyagah. While using Ksh. 15000 to get a service of Ksh. 5000 within a very short time seems okay, but many legal and equality factors are overlooked.
Paying for special boards in Kenya on land matters, such as obtaining a title deed, can be considered a form of corruption. In land matters, corruption often manifests through bribery, extortion, and favouritism, where individuals or entities pay money or provide other benefits to expedite or manipulate land-related processes.
This creates an uneven playing field where those with financial resources can gain an unfair advantage over those who cannot afford to pay for such services. This perpetuates inequality and marginalizes vulnerable groups who may not have the means to access these special boards.
Secondly, paying for special boards undermines the integrity of the land administration system. Land is a valuable asset, and its proper management is crucial for sustainable development and social stability. When individuals can bypass established procedures by paying bribes or utilizing special boards, it erodes public trust in the system and fosters a culture of impunity.
Thirdly, paying for special boards contributes to the perpetuation of corruption within the land sector. When individuals observe that bribery or other forms of corruption yield favourable outcomes, it creates a vicious cycle where more people are likely to engage in similar practices. This further entrenches corruption within the system and makes it even more challenging to eradicate it.
Paying for special boards in land matters is not the only form of corruption in Kenya’s land sector. Other corrupt practices include land grabbing, illegal land allocations, fraudulent transactions, and manipulation of land records. These practices have significant negative consequences for individuals, communities, and the overall development of the country.
Efforts have been made to address corruption in Kenya’s land sector. The government has implemented various reforms aimed at improving transparency, accountability, and efficiency in land administration. For instance, the digitization of land records and the establishment of online platforms for land transactions have reduced opportunities for corruption by minimizing human interaction and increasing transparency.
However, institutions such as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the National Land Commission (NLC) should proactively investigate and prosecute corruption cases in the land sector.