LANDS and Natural Resources Permanent Secretary Ndashe Yumba has apologised for contracting the Zambia Integrated Lands Management Information System (ZILMIS) at a huge cost when it has not delivered to the expectations of the people.

And Yumba says ZILMIS is so bad that he had asked the Auditor General and Smart Zambia to identify some ‘anonymous users’ controlling the system but no answers were given for six months.

Meanwhile, Yumba says the country needs to move away from ZILMIS because land records are backed up in Israel and Zambia has no full control over it.

Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Wednesday, Yumba said he took full responsibility for the failures of ZILMIS and also apologised for not seeking ZPPA approval on the contract.

“I take full responsibility for the failures of the system and that is why we are ensuring that corrective measures are put in place. As a Ministry, we apologise to the country because we contracted a system at a huge cost which has not delivered to the expectations of the people. In terms of the MoU where the request was sent on the same day and the response was received on the same day, it was because the issue had been under discussion at a meeting that was called to look at how best we could enhance revenue collection. I believe at the time because it was at no cost to government, the procedure of going to ZPPA was not followed and for that I also apologise,” he said.

“For as long as we do not rest ZILMIS, you can have even a rocket scientist who will never resolve the issues because there is no audit trail. The system is so porous that you cannot tie it down to anybody. Whoever works on the system hides under the veil of either the Commissioner of Lands, Chief Registrar or the Surveyor General. Smart Zambia did an assessment and recommended that we set it aside. This is what we have been working on to ensure that we have a system that we are fully in charge of so that all the anomalies that were taking place are put to a halt.”

And Yumba said he had asked the Auditor General and Smart Zambia to identify ‘anonymous users’ controlling the system but no answers had been given for six months.

“We need to transition to make our land administration system electronic. This is what we are working [on] with Smart Zambia so that as citizens, we can have an electronic title where you do not need a physical paper. When you look at the current system, anybody can go to ZILMIS and do what they want because there is no audit firm. ZILMIS has outlived its usefulness. Even if we say we own ZILMIS, we cannot make changes without the developer because the source code is held by the developer and not government,” Yumba said.

“When we look at ZILMIS, we have the concessioned the country. We need to move away from ZILMIS because we have no control. Even our land records are being backed up in Israel and not in Zambia. With the new system, our land management system will be backed up in the country. There are anonymous users and I have been questioning the Auditor General and I have sent a query to Smart Zambia to assist me to identify the anonymous users. It is now six months but nobody can tell. We are hoping that the new system will be complete by June 2022.”

Yumba said his ministry was working with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to ensure that funds were deducted from the Local Government Equalisation Fund for councils which owe the treasury.

“We are now engaging with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development so that those councils that owe in terms of ground rent, when they are being funded their Local government Equalisation Fund, we should deduct from the source what they owe the Treasury. The councils should know that if at all they will be collecting revenue on behalf of government they should be able to remit it. If not, whatever they owe will be deducted from the Local government Equalisation Fund. This is an area where we are still in discussion with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and we will give it to our principles,” he said.

“In May this year, we made amendments to the Survey Act where electronic document management systems were approved. Within that, the electronic signature has also been approved. We have written to ZICTA and it has said we can start using the electronic signature. However, they need to put down regulations for the use of the electronic signature and we will now formalize that with ZICTA. We are supposed to have a meeting tomorrow and look at the modalities.”

Yumba said citizens, especially in unplanned settlements, were not willing to pay for land ownership titles.

“Before an offer letter is granted to a potential land owner, the issue is that all the statutory fees should be paid before. Property owners are required to pay 20% and a good number of these people are failing to come up with this amount so that we can process the title deeds hence the under collection of revenue. We are actually ready to issue titles to these citizens but if we give them titles for free, we will be waiving the statutory obligations and creating another audit query. We are holding on to records until the owners come forward and pay 20%. The lowest fee a property owner can pay is about K2,000 but the 20% is K400,” said Yumba.

“Unfortunately, our citizens are not coming forward to actually pay for the 20% and hence the under collection of the 56,000 and only 1,700 have come to collect. The 56,000 are properties we know are ready for titling. Our role ends where a property is ready for titling and the response is on the client. There are certain areas where the response is overwhelming. In certain areas such as unplanned settlements where people have encroached on other people’s property, the value of having a legal document to show ownership is not appreciated. So we need to start educating our citizens about having legal documentation for ownership.”