Theory versus Reality of Inter-Agency Collaboration in Land Registration Practices: The Cross-Case of Ghana and Kenya


Land registration, according to Henssen (1995), is the process of official recording of land rights through deeds or titles. What this means is that there has to be an official record (usually called a register) of land rights or of deeds concerning changes in the legal situation of defined units of land. Modern land registration methods are believed to provide the most reliable path to securing land tenure. This is why it has become an integral part of land management methods, and an issue of global interest. This notwithstanding, there are several barriers to securing land or property rights and ownership through land registration. Many African countries embraced modern land registration either in their colonial or post-colonial periods of nationhood. However, a major problem in these countries is that these land registration (or their land administration) systems rely on silo approaches in recording land rights, due to a lack of inter-agency collaboration in processes leading to property registration (Ntiador, 2009; Williamson et al., 2010). That is why some literature has called for integrated systems and approaches to core land issues such as land management and land administration (Zevenbergen et al., 2013; Biitir, Nara, and Ameyaw, 2017).

In countries like Ghana and Kenya, land management (and specifically, its subsequent registration) processes are characterized by a series of back and forth procedures by different agencies that not only make the processes unnecessarily longer and more expensive, but also open room for corruption or malpractices (Kirk et al., 2015). This situation has been attributed largely to a lack of coordinated inter-agency collaboration in land registration procedures, especially land data-sharing (Agyeman-Yeboah, 2018; Biitir and Nara, 2016). It is one of the reasons both countries encounter challenges in setting up a practice of “one-stop shops.” A one-stop shop is a land administration concept and practice that underpins collaboration and integration of business processes, operations, and functions of agencies to make multiple services accessible to clients in one system. Hence, the need for enabling improved land information availability, as well as pro-poor land administration approaches in Ghana and Kenya.

In this regard, this chapter aims to provide insights on how inter-agency collaboration in land administration practices apply in relation to theory and practice in Ghana and Kenya, and provide a path towards improvement. To achieve this aim, the chapter answers three major questions. The questions are: (1) how is a parcel of land registered under the current land registration systems in Ghana and Kenya? (2) How do inter-agency collaborations in land registration practices in Ghana and Kenya align w'ith best practices described in theory? (3) How can inter-agency collaboration challenges in land registration be improved in Ghana and Kenya? In answering these questions, the chapter provides information on the reasons why land information management in Ghana and Kenya still suffers from information redundancy and information management problems that are rooted in poor inter-agency collaboration. Providing these underlying reasons is a starting point for smart and responsible land management interventions that meet local land registration needs.

The rest of the chapter is structured as follows: a literature background to enable grasping what the theory says is provided. This leads to an overview of the methodology, focusing on the assessment of inter-agency collaboration in theory in relation to the realities in the Ghana and Kenya land registration systems. The results of the case studies’ assessments are then presented. The concluding section looks at the implications of the results for future practice and suggestions going forward.

Literature Perspective

Despite the well-thought out land tenure (and land administration) reforms that are being implemented in Ghana and Kenya, land registration is still problematic for their citizens, especially the poor. Difficulties in land registration have been blamed on information redundancy and information management problems rooted on inefficient collaborations between the institutionalized agencies whose functions influence land registration processes (Ntiador, 2009; Kirk et al., 2015). Therefore, understanding how these land agencies can collaborate to deliver better land registration services is a concern. Ghana and Kenya aside, emerging land policies in Africa (for instance, in Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and many others) call for joint efforts towards tackling the land challenges in their various countries.

Various semantics have emerged from many of these calls for land agencies to work together. Some of them include inter-sectoral, inter-agency, inter-professional, and multiagency, to mention a few (Lloyd, Stead, and Kendrick, 2001). These terminologies may imply a range of structures (or arrangements, approaches, practices, strategies, and rationales), but they share one common meaning. That is, “working together” to achieve common land management and administration purposes (Warmington et al., 2004, p. 13; Zevenbergen et al., 2016). Rather than focus on semantics, this study adopted the term “inter-agency,” because it is one of the few terminologies for collaboration that has gained considerable importance in various aspects of public administration (including land administration). In its simplest meaning, inter-agency collaboration implies a situation where “more than one agency [is] working together in a planned and formal way, rather than simply through informal networking (although the latter may support and develop the former)” (Warmington et al., 2004, p.13). In general, there are possible models of inter-agency collaboration which can apply to Ghana and Kenya. Atkinson et al. (2002) identified them to include decision-making groups, consultation, and training, center-based delivery, coordinated delivery, and operational team delivery models.

The decision-making groups model provides a forum for professionals of different agencies to meet and discuss issues and make decisions at a strategic level (Langemeyer et al., 2016). The consultation and training model engages professionals from one agency to enhance the expertise of those from another agency mostly at the operational level (Ulibarri, 2018). In a center-based delivery model, a range of expertise ia gathered on one site to deliver a more coordinated and comprehensive service (Atkinson et al., 2002). A key feature of this model is exchange of information and ideas, although services may not be delivered jointly. In a coordinated delivery model, a coordinator is appointed to bring together separate services to facilitate a more cohesive response to needs through collaboration between agencies involved in the delivery of services (Atkinson et al., 2002; Ulibarri, 2018). While professionals deliver services at the operational level, the coordinator operates at a more strategic level. Finally, an operational team delivery model involves professionals from different agencies working together on a day-to-day basis, forming a cohesive multiagency team delivering services directly to clients.

The operational components of the land management paradigm are necessary for inter-agency collaboration to w'ork appropriately in Ghana and Kenya. Operational components of the land management paradigm include the range of land administration functions that ensure proper management of rights, restrictions, responsibilities, and risks in relation to property, land, and natural resources (Enemark, 2005). It includes identifying land, defining interests in land, and organizing data about or inventories of land information (Williamson et al., 2010). It also includes devising ways to make land management structures (including procedures and outcomes) work in a responsible way (de Vries and Chigbu, 2017). Effective and efficient land registration systems are necessary for achieving this. It is therefore necessary to understand the importance of inter-agency collaboration among land sector agencies directly involved in land registration in fulling the task of land registration. Hence, a look at best practice, or what features an ideal inter-agency collaboration should have, is necessary.

Within the context of land management (specifically land registration), inter-agency collaboration is necessary because land registration tasks involve interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and cross-disciplinary (including inter-sectoral) activities for achieving sustainable policy objectives. This implies that all agencies involved whose activities influence land registration should work together towards achieving efficient outcomes. In this regard, contemporary literature describes what should characterize an ideal inter-agency collaboration. Based on a body of literature reviewed in this study, this chapter identifies some ideal features of an efficient inter-agency collaboration for effective land registration. A synthesis from the literature has been adopted as the indicators for assessing the situation in Ghana and Kenya (see Table 16.1).

Although the indicators presented here are inconclusive (as they have been evolving over time), they generally allude to the idea that inter-agency collaboration in land registration should be done to fulfill objectives that are in accordance with the societal needs for efficient land administration, property rights formation, protection, and tenure security improvement.

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