NAIROBI, Kenya, May 19 – A queue of people waiting to walk through a metal detector is what greets you at the gate of the re-opened Ardhi House following a 10-day audit that had closed it off to the public.
A new security measure, Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu says, put in place in response to the increased terror threat.
Once successfully through the detector, all sensor triggers including earrings having come off, you’re greeted by a number of tents, chairs and tables in the parking area with the first labelled Enquiries.
Behind the desk sits a gentleman whose job is to assess your needs and direct you either to one of the other tables stationed out in the lot or if your needs demand it, inside Ardhi House itself.
“The tents are temporary. We just didn’t want crowding; we’ve been closed for two working weeks and we expected a flood of people. Especially as we announced that we retrieved over a million files in that period,” Ngilu explains.
She herself stands guard behind a second metal detector at the entrance to the building where she enquires what your business is; demands to see your staff ID should you claim to be a member of staff and to know the department in which you work.
“We are keen to ensure all those brokers who existed here and confused people can no longer gain access. Unfortunately they also worked in cahoots with some of our staff members,” she explains.
Ten of whom, she says, were taken into police custody for attempting to smuggle the very files she was seeking to retrieve, out of Ardhi House.
“Some of them hid them in their handbags while others tried to sneak them out using their jackets,” she demonstrates.
Another 100 staff members, she says, have been transferred out of the Ministry in a bid to exorcise the culture of impunity that had taken hold.
“Some people had been here so long they thought they owned the place. We don’t want people here who think they are doing the public a favour. We want people happy to provide the services expected of them,” she says.
And she’s happy to show off the ongoing construction works on the ground floor, to bring services closer to the people.
“I don’t want people to have to go up elevators to closed-off offices to get help. All my senior officers, including myself will now be on the ground floor, in an open space where business can be transacted transparently,” she promises.
But her pride and joy, she says, is the newly re-organised registry where files are neatly stacked in shelves.