Oct 14 , 2023

After dragging years and multiple companies to upload land-holding information of residents into a digital system, the much-anticipated reform of land-related services across the capital initiated by the Land Development & Administration Bureau nears launch.

The 68 million Br project has taken six years and three companies to see the light of day.

Six years ago, a bid to provide hardware and software components was bagged by Hyda Plc, which has supplied hardware for major banks such as Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) and Xoka IT Solution Plc won a 14 million Br, respectively. Meanwhile, the struggling subsidiary of Orchid Business Group Plc won a 54.6 million Br bid to provide the network infrastructure.

The two companies pointed to the delayed performance of Orchid Construction in building the network infrastructure as the primary reason for the protracted completion of the digitisation process that commenced operation in July.

Manager of Hyde, Ermias Belayneh, recalls that the tender was cancelled three times due to the absence of a company that can provide a queue system and a land tenure system simultaneously.

"We had lost bids twice," he recalled.

According to Ermias, a joint venture between their company and Xoka was the final remedy to the dearth of companies despite delays in network infrastructure construction later on.

He pointed to the reshuffling of officials over the last few years as an additional factor that contributed to the hold-up of the project. In spite of the challenges, Ermias believes that the new system will significantly decrease land-related corruption over time.

His counterpart shares the sentiment.

Biruk Berhane who manages Xoka revealed that the project should have been completed in three months let alone take years.

"But we couldn't put software without a server," he told Fortune.

Biruk acknowledges the role of the system that uses peculiar numbers on Digital IDs and Tin Numbers in helping improve service and guaranteeing that information does not get lost.

Despite repeated attempts by Fortune, Orchid Business Group was not available to comment on the development of the story.

Land-related services have been suspended several times during the last two years with the last embargo two months ago.

Officials usually cite increased fraud as the major culprit. They hope the electronic system will replace the long-standing paper-based filing and processing of land tenure documents that has been a source of fraud and frustration for the broader public.

Sisay Getachew took the helm of Addis Abeba Land Development & Administration Bureau from former defence minister Kenea Yadeta less than a year ago.

He suggests that removing paper from the system will significantly reduce delays in service provision and improve tracking capabilities.

"A paper system had several gaps open for fraud," he told Fortune.

The head of the Bureau expects a developing integration project with Ethiotelecom that will automatically send text messages to residents if any edits to their information occur.

Sisay revealed plans to enable land bid documents through an online platform when employees across the city districts adopt the system thoroughly. Up till now, only 600 employees have received training.

While the initiative to alleviate the cumbersome process of land-related services is something to look forward to, residents argue overhauling systems with digital service should be complemented by proper staff training.

Endeshaw Tesfaye who works at the United Nations Capital Development Fund, applauds the recent move of digitising the public service across all sectors.

He believes it will address the troubles concerning counterfeit documents and contribute to swift service limiting the back and forth between service providers and customers. However, he observes people struggling to make utility payments through digital platforms which appears much simpler than land-related services.

"The Bureau should act on digital literacy as well," Endeshaw told Fortune.

Although might require occasional physical presence, all 24 services given by the Bureau, which racked up 2.4 billion Br in revenues last year, are set to be digitised if the system gets implemented successfully.

Officials tasked with compiling and facilitating the services have been looking forward to the implementation of the system for several years.

Zerihun Bekila, director of the land information desk, indicates that the launch had been delayed due to the miscommunication of the companies involved.

Even though he recognises the role of the new system in decreasing fraud, Zerihun indicates it does not fully address service suspensions.

He suggests supervisory control to use the full potential.

"More work will be needed," he cautioned.

There are 58,596 files in Bole District Land Management & Development Administration currently being uploaded.

Although the completion date is not proverbial, Chernet Abebe, head of Bole District Land Management & Development Administration, indicated that they have been mobilising resources such as gadgets from adjacent bureaus to hasten the process.

He recognises the role of digitisation in cutting back on expenses and mitigating fraud and document disappearances.

He stated: "Imagine losing files on property held as bank collateral."

PUBLISHED ON Oct 14,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1224]

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