Notary services for transactions involving land transfers have been taken to the grassroots in what officials have described as a move aimed at improving service delivery and reducing on the time it takes to access the services.
The heavy backlog of land transaction cases district notaries face have been hampering the provision of quality services and was negatively affecting the country’s socio-economic development, according to officials.
Land is a key factor in the country’s production and plays a significant role in socio-economic transformation.
A few years ago, the government initiated a nationwide exercise to register land and issue land titles to owners.
Over 10 million plots of land have been registered, according to available figures.
However, the small number of officers previously mandated to provide notary services had been causing a public uproar as service seekers had to wait longer to access the services.
Under the previous arrangement, the process to validate documents about land transactions started from the district level, by the notary, also known as the district land officer.
This means that there were only 30 individuals who had the rights to certify land transactions at local level.
But following a new law that decentralises the services to the sector level, the number of land notaries is set to increase to over 450 across the country.
There will be a notary in each of the 416 sectors in the country, according to the law.
A first group of sector-based land notaries, composed of 85 individuals, on Friday took an oath of office and pledged to handle their tasks with determination, integrity and passion in a ceremony that officially marked the decentralisation of the services to the sector level.
The exercise will continue until the whole country is served, officials said.
The notaries will have powers to certify and authenticate contracts for transfer of land titles and other immovable properties.
A four-day capacity building programme was held to empower the officers with the required skills to execute their tasks before taking office.
At the same ceremony, four provincial notaries also took oath and are expected to handle land transactions involving investors wishing to establish industries, factories or micro-processing plants.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Minister for Justice, Johnston Busingye, said the historic exercise is part of efforts to improve the quality of services while at the same time contributing to the country’s development.
Busingye urged the newly appointed officers to serve with “integrity, devotion and commitment.”
“We expect you to provide quick and high quality services to the public. We believe you will act in accordance with the law, give value to residents, and above all serve with integrity,” Busingye told the officers.
He called upon the recruits to avoid corruption and anything else that might compromise the office entrusted to them – noting that the way they handle their tasks will help avoid or fuel land–related conflicts.
Eng. Didier Giscard Sagashya, the deputy director general (lands and mapping) at the Rwanda National Natural Resources Authority (RNA), told The New Times that the move ‘brings services closer to the people.”
“We believe no one will ever have to spend days waiting to get their documents notified,” Sagashya said.
Theogene Ntakirutimana, one of the sector land notaries who will be based in Ruramba Sector of Nyaruguru District, said: “I am committed to serving with diligence and to become a solution provider to residents’ queries.”