THE Minister of Lands, Housing & Survey Joseph Onika has authorised that the Land and Titles (Amendment) Act 2014 will come into force on 1st December 2014.
The primary purpose of these legislative amendments is to introduce a new Land Board, to take over the responsibility for allocating interest in land from the Commissioner of Lands.
The board will have the power to grant, transfer and forfeit Fixed Term Estates and to issue Temporary Occupation Licenses.
Under these changes, the Commissioner of Lands will remain but this person will not be authorised to make decisions on land dealings and will instead carry out administrative actions according to the board’s directives and the Commissioner will also act as secretary to the board.
In announcing the start date of 1st December for the changes, Mr Onika said that the Land Board is a positive step forward for the nation, and it achieves the NCRA Government’s policy goal of improving land governance by strengthening land disposal processes.
Mr Onika added that the introduction of a Land Board is a response to the public criticism of widespread abuse of power to allocate land by Ministry and Provincial officers, and said that the new Board will include representatives from different Ministries and from the general public.
The legislative changes also introduce measures to improve transparency in decision-making, by making it a requirement to make public the Minutes of Board meetings and details of successful and unsuccessful applicants, the premiums and rentals applied, all the conditions and covenants applied, and the methods by which land was allocated.
Mr Onika stated that these measures will help to ensure that only those allocations that were clearly made by the Land Board will be registered, and that it will allow all applicants to get a clear picture of how their application was considered.
In turn, he said, the transparency of decision-making is expected to result in a fairer, justifiable and more equitable system of land allocation.
The Land and Titles (Amendment) Act 2014 introduces a number of other reforms, including increased penalties, additional justifications for forfeiture of estates, and uniformity of the revision of land rents.
One notable change is that an estate can be forfeited for the reason that the owner or occupier of the land has been convicted of an offence relating to the possession or sale of liquor or dangerous drugs.
The Land Board is expected to meet in December, and then at regular intervals in order to consider the anticipated constant flow of applications and other land dealings within reasonable time.