Kenya: I Won’t Give Up the Fight Against Cartels at Ardhi House – CS Karoney

Nairobi — The appointment of Farida Karoney to the Lands docket in February, 2018 raised eyebrows with her critics including a section of Kenyans and parliamentarians questioning her capabilities to lead a ministry regarded the most controversial and scandalous in Kenya’s history.

Having been in the media industry for close to 27 years and then transitioning to government, many were in doubt whether someone from the newsroom would be able to inspire leadership at the ministry that over the years was rocked by corruption and controlled by shadowy influential people or better yet cartels who reigned with impunity.

A stickler of rules seldom bending the law, Karoney was resolute to prove her doubters wrong when she took over the mantle from her predecessor Jacob Kaimenyi.

She in fact told the National Assembly Appointments Committee during her vetting that she would streamline services at the ministry whose image was considered damaged beyond repaire. She singled out her resolve to fight cartels.

“Yes, cartels are there and we can’t give up because they exist. The reason cartels continue to walk the corridors of Ardhi House is because the systems are not digitized. Let us deal with digitization and secure records, that way the cartels will be eliminated,” she told the Committee chaired by Speaker Justin Muturi.

Following her appointment, Karoney’s job was simple and clear – to clean out the rot at the ministry with her appointing authority President Uhuru Kenyatta guarantying her of his support.

The seasoned journalist who started off her career back in 1994 as a reporter and then later rose through the ranks and became one of the top most senior managers in the media is now of the view that she has delivered what she promised.

Karoney noted that her perceived fight with cartels in the once tainted ministry has largely been successful owing to the credible systems that she has been able to oversee.

One such system is the National Land Information Management System (NLIMS) also known as Ardhisasa, an online platform that allows Kenyans to interact with land information held and processes undertaken by the government.

President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the system in April 27, 2021 marking the end of manual land transactions in Nairobi.

“We have been very successful in building strong systems to lock out cartels, brokers and people who ought not to be transacting in our sector,” she said during an exclusive interview with Capital News at the National Geospatial Data Centre on Tuesday.

She credits the system for revolutionizing the handling and transaction of land and by extension fostering transparency.

“We have been able to cut out the middlemen. With the system, as a land owner you do need a broker, cartel or middleman to help you transact on your parcel of land. You just need your identity card and you need to be sure that your paperwork is proper,” she said.

Nairobi registry which was the pilot county and went on live three months after the unveiling of the platform is expected to be fully digitized by December, 2021 with records in 35 counties expected to be automated by 2022.

Karoney is confident that Kenya’s fight against corruption at the Ministry has indeed registered significant milestone with the operationalization of Ardhisasa.

“Ordinary Kenyans are very happy with the system because for many years they are the ones who have suffered most because of our inefficiencies. Through the system we have been able to cut out the crowds that were being witnessed at the Ministry headquarters,” she said.

The ministry currently has two registries, the Nairobi registry which currently operational and the central registry which will go live later on in the year.

The digital land resource management platform is, designed to enhance the security of land records, speed up land transactions and curb fraud.

Whereas a section of Kenyans are still skeptic about the platform, Karoney assured Kenyans that it is secure despite numerous attempts by hackers to infiltrate it.

“We have been on air for five months and there has been very many attempts to compromise the system but the individuals have not been successful. This tells you that the system is indeed robust,” she said.

She stressed that system cannot be easily compromised even by rogue Ministry of Lands employees as it does not permit shortcuts and that such attempts would be easily flagged by the system.

The Nairobi land registry has so far handled 90, 000 title documents but only 40,000 are transactable.


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