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District Land Offices Remain Idle as MZOs Takes up All Functions

Robert Mbaziira, the Senior Land Management Officer Mukono District, points out that with the creating of MZOs most of their roles have been duplicated, adding that workers in district offices literally do despite the fact that they are paid.
Pictured is Mityana Ministerial Zonal Offices, such offices have been blamed to take –up functions of district land offices.

Audio 5

District Land Offices across the country seem to be lying idle because the Ministerial Zonal Offices-MZOs are silently taking up their functions.  

According to the Land Act, each district council is expected to establish a district land office comprising of the Physical Planner, Land Officer, Cartographers, Valuer, surveyor and registrar of titles. Each of the officers plays a technical role as far land administration is concerned.

Robert Mbaziira, the Senior Land Management Officer Mukono District, points out that with the creating of MZOs most of their roles have been duplicated, adding that workers in district offices literally do despite the fact that they are paid. He says the roles of land officers at the district are being phased slowly out without a clear explanation.   

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MZOs were established in a phased manner starting in 2014 after the Ministry of Lands; Housing and Urban Development signed a memorandum of understanding with all districts in a move to improve Land Management and improve service delivery.

Prior to opening the regional offices, the Lands Ministry trained staff in the district land office catchment on their different roles. However, these were progressively locked out as the ministry appointed its own staff, a thing that has triggered confusion and distorted the role of staff more so in districts hosting the MZOs.

Mbaziira also argues that that the new Land Information System-LIS was designed in a way that it doesn’t have any requirement of a district surveyor whose role in land management is paramount.

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Matia Lwanga Bwanika, the Wakiso LC V chairperson notes that they have always raised a red flag over the functionality of the regional offices operating in a vacuum since there is no law specifying how they function. Bwanika says local governments are also losing a lot of revenue.  

He explains that before the establishment of the regional land offices, districts would levy several fees on the land transactions with the exception of stamp duty. The districts could get Shillings 10, 000 from each land transaction and other fees from application fees and ground rent where applicable, which is no longer the case.    

“When they temporarily closed Wakiso MZO recently, they said over 400,000 transactions were affected. Now they are open, these truncations are on. Do you know how much we could generate from that? It could close to shillings four billion and they could have done a lot in terms of service delivery,” says Bwanika.

However, Chris Tembo Omoding, the Assistant Commissioner in Charge of Surveys says districts need to revisit and review the memorandum of understanding they entered with the Ministry.  

 

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He disagrees with claims district officers are idle. He notes that he has over time discussed specifically with Wakiso District Authorities on the functions of the district land office staff, saying there are many other duties that the staff can do like supporting the District Land Board.

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Some district has started thinking of scrapping some position from the district offices since they can’t afford paying idle officer. For example, Wakiso District has already notified the Ministry of their plans to scrap the position of a district cartographer.

Omoding wonders how the district will function without the said position, which according to him it is very important as it supplements the work of the district physical planning unit.    

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Bwanika points out that the other pressing issue is the supervision of MZO staff. He notes that the Ministry has always argued that the MZO staffs are under the supervision of the hosting district yet they are directly appointed by the permanent secretary.

“This can’t work we have over time tried to tame these offices but we lack empowerment by the law, the CAO here cant interdict or act otherwise on MZO staff since he is no their appointing authority. This must also be addressed,” says Bwanika.