2020 digital revolution, property document via online application in five minutes

The property certificate from the Cadastre agency can now be obtained via a web-based system. Thanks to the 2020 digital revolution, the application for a property certificate can now be filed via the web-based e-albania platform and the document is issued in just few minutes. The platform puts and to the long delays, bribery and increases transparency. The new system was introduced to the public during an online videoconference between the Prime Minister Edi Rama, Director General of the State Cadastre Agency, Artan Lame, the Director National Agency on Information Society (NAIS), Linda Karcanaj. PM Rama noted that the former Immovable Property Registration Office has been one of the poorest performing institutions tasked with the public service delivery in the past 3 years, but introduction of the online services will radically transform the relation with the citizens.

“We do no longer have the service system provided over the years by the Agency for Legalization and Urbanization of the Informal Zones and Buildings on one hand and the Immovable Property Registration Office on the other as the two have been already replaced by the State Cadastre Agency that employs an integrated system and online services as part of the ongoing digital revolution, which makes 2020 a year of tremendous transformation in terms of public service delivery, providing relief to citizens and saving them from long delays, while people will no longer have to wander up and down asking for a service be delivered, creating at the same time a complete transparency and accountability framework for the entire system that provides all sorts of public services to citizens,” the Premier said.

The cadastral services are delivered via the online system since January 1, 2020, and another important service regarding the provision of the property documents adds to the broad range of services delivered by this agency as part of the digital government concept aimed at improving public service delivery, putting an end to the corrupt practices in delivering services, ensure greater accountability and transparency and build greater public trust.

“The Cadastre Agency delivers its services via the web-based platform since Jan 1 and with the introduction of the e-stamping the range of the online delivered services expands further, meaning that citizens will no longer have to report at the Cadastre Agency in person so that they can receive services, because they can carry out whole process from home via their personal computers or smart phones. With the online applications, the first part of the procedure has changed. Citizens can file their applications via their smart phones or personal computers or they can report at the window services for help to complete their applications. We are here today to announce that entire process is simplified. This is a true and complete revolution yielding concrete results, ultimately blocking the system funnelling the citizens’ money through the dark corruption channels,” the Premier stated.

The head of the State Cadastre Agency Artan Lame explained how the online service application and delivery works.

“Every citizen faces three elements when applying for property services; first, where he receives the service; second, the time needed for the service to be delivered and, third, service delivery quality. We addressed the first element with the online applications system, so that citizens will no longer need to report at our window services in person. The second element, “when”, is precisely the one we are tackling today. Whole application procedure is carried out via the web-based platform and if applicants can make online payments, the document he or she applies for is issued in five minutes. So, starting tomorrow, the service will be delivered in just few minutes. All applications will be filed online and the reply will be also provided via the online system within the legal deadlines. As many as 1.7 million documents are issued by the Agency. The Cadastre inherits around 50 million documents, which will be all digitized. With the new system, we will register around 12 million documents,” Lame said.

Direct contact between the citizens and the employees is totally avoided, while the outside interferences are eliminated.

“No citizen would claim that he or she met an official employee, because the latter asked him or her to do so. Nobody can claim it and none of the employees will be able to find an excuse, claiming to have asked the applicant to report in person when failing to properly understand the applicant’s problem. We are coordinated with each other every day and we are currently working with two private banks, but this cooperation will expand to involve all banks operating in the country’s banking system in the coming days. Under this system, the Cadastre will be no longer to decide between two persons, ultimately putting an end to this very sad and long-time practice, which has somehow been the main tender that was held at the Cadastre. Privacy protection is entirely safeguarded. When we took over, the system included a total of 1600-1700 outside and unidentified users. This was done on purpose so that when someone accessed the system, the user left no traces at all. All these user accounts were deleted and once the system was put under control, every operation carried out via the system leaves traces and everyone is responsible for their actions,” Lame said.

Lame noted that another innovative solution to mitigate and address the relations between the co-owners is that we have avoided the provision of the ownership certificate as a unique copy and its issuance according to the request made by each co-owner.

“People often have involved in personal disputes and legal disputes through the court system, because the ownership certificate, since the Ottoman-era, was a unique copy. Under this new system, the ownership certificate is no longer a unique copy and each owner will have a copy of his or her own,” Lame added.

The application is carried out via a computer and smart phone in just few minutes, or through the assistance of the notary service offices, which have online access to the Cadastre’s system. According to Lame, the system is innovative also for the e-stamping.

“The certificates and other property documents will bear no physical stamp. We are used to the documents bearing a stamp and the signature of the relevant official. Such a stamp is eliminated under the new system. All this is recorded in the system’s computer brain or the central processing unit. After the creation of the State Cadastre Agency and with the new law on the state cadastre adopted last year, this is the most important reform in this area,” he added.

NAIS Director Mirlinda Karcanaj highlighted the fact that citizens are increasingly resorting to a broader range of services delivered via the e-albania platform.

“The services delivered by the Cadastre Agency are entirely automatic ones with zero direct contact with the Cadastre employees and officials and zero corruption practices consequently. This is no longer something new. The novelty is the fact that any scepticism or any shadow of doubt have faded away over the past two months of the pandemic, because the window services have been shut down, but the e-albania platform has been operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The data show that online services have been delivered to around 40,000 citizens over the past two months. The most required service has been the copy of the property card, which account for 70% of the services the Cadastre provides annually,” she said.

“This service is now provided very easily. It takes just a click to access the web-based platform, a minimum payment and the document, bearing an electronic stamping, is delivered via the online system in just three minutes if the property is registered in the list of digitized property records or in five days if not registered,” Karcanaj added.

Prime Minister Rama noted it is crucially important that citizens get used to the new system and put emphasis on informing citizens how to use it. He urged the heads of the two institutions to draft a two-month plan on training of all employees in the regional directorates of the State Cadastre Agency.

“The State Cadastre and the National Agency on Information Society should jointly develop a two-month informing and training program for all local government and regional cadastre employees, who are on the front line of the work to serve citizens in this transitional period,” PM Rama said.

On the other hand, it is also important that real-time service is delivered to all institutions, namely the prosecution offices, courts, the High Inspectorate for the Declaration and Audit of Wealth, local government authorities, the State Police, vetting institutions, banks so that the inherited handicap of the unique certificate copy is ultimately eliminated. Adaptation to the new philosophy of the administration of documents with e-stamps is now underway. The fact that despite the new system we introduced in January is still a new one, but, in spite of all obstacles and the situation caused by the pandemic, it has kept working. 40,000 services is a considerable figure and more encouraging is that the process has involved people at all ages. I see no age problem in this process. We have also seen with the co-government platform that a significant part of the citizens who have accessed the platform are retired people. They are learning to use it or they are being assisted by their grandsons or  granddaughters, neighbours, or the post office employees, the office of administrative units.”

The Director General of the State Cadastre Agency Artan Lame the number of applicants via the online system has increased significantly in April as the Agency has been closed due to the pandemic.

“The pandemic helped us to test the system, because with our offices shut down especially in April, given also that the notary services have been also closed during this period, the citizens had no other option, but file their applications via the online system. As many as 37, 332 applications have been made in April alone. These are all applications filed by the citizens themselves without the help of a notary or a lawyer. Of course, the process will be even easier now with the reopening of the ADISA services and the public notary offices,” Lame said.

NAIS Director General Mirlinda Karcanaj showed the application filed by a business to obtain a property card, with the payment being carried online via the bank account.

The government head noted this is a process that has taken years of opportunities over the past 30 years, while it now completes in just few minutes, calling it a moment of tremendous transformation of the public services in Albania.

“A process took place in just few minutes of this application, which, in the past 30 years, could have cost people long years of inability to find the right path towards obtaining a document. It is actually my dream for the Cadastre office to be no longer the Mecca or the Vatican of all ‘devils’ and the ownership documents are obtained exactly in the way it is obtained starting today and on. I recall that many mocked and ridiculed us when we want the cadastre or the immovable registration office is in the pocket of every citizen and make sure that the pocket of every citizen is not in the hand of the cadastre employees. This is today a dream come true and it is a very good day for the public services in Albania. This is the moment of a tremendous transformation,” PM Rama said, appreciating the Director of the National Cadastre Agency and the NAIS Director, saying “this wouldn’t have become a reality if it was not for both of you.”