Overtasking of land notaries and connectivity problems are hampering access to efficient land services at the local government level in parts of Rwanda.
Landowners said that despite the reforms made to digitise and decentralise transfer of property at the sector level, they are still encountering difficulties in completing transactions.
Part of the problem is that sector-based land notaries are also responsible for infrastructure and settlements in their respective jurisdictions, which leaves them little time to deal with the backlog of applications for transfer of land.
Also, Internet access in remote areas has not kept pace with the migration of these services to online platforms.
“Many times there is slow or no Internet connection, which means the files cannot be filed online. Also, the land notary is available only once in a week and for just a few hours,’ said Alice Nyiramana, a resident in Kamonyi District.
Residents in remote and semi-urban areas largely rely on privately-run cyber cafés to access a number of government services online, at a fee. In such cases, services like land transfer can take between three weeks to two months to complete, compared with five to 10 days it takes elsewhere.
Implementation of the e-government initiative saw services like transfer of land, changing land use, merging, subdivision and payment for title deeds offered on an online portal with applicants only going to the notary to pick their certified documents.
However, in rural areas, service gaps have encouraged informal transactions in land, which is reflected in the high number of people who show up at the annual land week organised once a year.
Alain Katabogama, a District Land Notary, Infrastructure and Community Settlement Officer for Shyorongi Sector, in Rulindo district, said that while the reforms made land transactions easier to process, several factors made it difficult to adhere to deadlines.
Officials from the Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority said they would implement additional reforms in order to deal with the difficulties being encountered in some parts of the country.
Esperance Mukamana, director-general of Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority, told Rwanda Today that they were working with local officials to deal with all pending issues to do with land service provision.
“We are implementing a combination of measures that we believe will address all of the issues raised,” she said.
“For example, we want each sector to dedicate at least two or three days in a week to offer land services and ensure the public is well informed of the dates. That is one of the ways to deal with conflicting duties for sector notaries,” said Ms Mukamana.
“We are also moving to expand the land administration information system at the local level, which will eliminate the need for physical correspondence and frequent travel by notaries to have applications signed by registrars at the district and provincial levels.”
Ms Mukamana said Internet connectivity and access to electricity are issues that will be solved progressively. The expansion of the land administration information system at the local level and holding regular events on land services in all districts will help deal with the backlog.