The Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) has found itself in a precarious position of temporarily halting hundreds of jobs in the construction sector and property investments worth billions after it became the latest target of a cybersecurity attack.

The NMS had been conducting business quite oblivious to the hackers who had gained access to the Quick Response (QR) code of their online system, affecting quite a number of illegal approvals in the process. The officials of the organization had no choice but to shutdown the system and suspend the various development plan approvals.

Basically, the QR system within the NMS is part of an e-construction development plans application system that the organization uses to look for building plans and construction permits. Among the features of the application is a unique electronic identification of every approved architectural and structural plan. With this feature, a property developer will not have submit any hard copies of their development plans for physical stamping which is the mark of the final approval.

The officials learnt of the hacked system after the Kenya Alliance of Residents Association raised concerns over mushrooming constructions in zoned-off areas which goes against the floor policies laid down for such zones, and this is especially in Muthaiga North.

Confirming the application breach, NMS Deputy Director-General Kangethe Thuku said that they were now looking for a solution.

The elimination of the physical contact of stamping documents has apparently helped in reducing corruption cases as far as approving construction permits is concerned. So far, a total of 7, 299 development applications have been approved in one year.

While that is all good news, this is not the first time that NMS has suspended the QR code system. The application was launched by City Hall on March 29, 2020, but was later suspended in May of the same year when NMS officially took over. NMS then came up with the current system, the e-construction development control system.

This was after President Uhuru Kenyatta decried the infiltration of the system by cartels who had taken over the approvals sector creating a backlog of 4,400 unprocessed development projects applications at the time. He then directed NMS to concentrate on streamlining development control and approvals for the County and implement an urgent action plan to clear backlogs for approvals.

“They should also fully operationalize the e-Construction and e-Permit systems and in this way, reduce the number of delays arising for investors from development control approvals,” he said.

The QR system was only restored on November 19, 2020.

It is expected that the suspension of the system will drastically affect the revenue collection of building permits. Building permits are among the five own revenue sources of the county which have yielded poor results over the years. The decline in revenue has been attributed to non-disclosure and non-adherence to building regulations.