- The City Council confirmed that the hackers gained access to the system’s quick response code (QR) and made illegal approvals, leading to the shutdown.
- The QR system is part of the electronic building development plan application that is used for building plans and building permits.
Reports of criminals hacking into the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) online development plan approval system are a serious matter that deserves a thorough investigation.
The City Council confirmed that the hackers gained access to the system’s quick response code (QR) and made illegal approvals, leading to the shutdown. The QR system is part of the electronic building development plan application that is used for building plans and building permits.
Surprisingly, the breach was discovered after concerns raised by the Kenyan Residents Association (Kara) about the increase in construction cases in zoned areas that go against the floor policies of such zones, especially in Muthaiga North. .
This is serious because investments worth billions of shillings are approved under this system, which means that Nairobi loses revenue for every scheme that is not channeled through its formal systems.
Of greater concern is that illegal approvals compromise the safety of residents and leave investors at risk of costly lawsuits from the City Council when developments are found to be in violation of the planning code.
Suspending the system from time to time due to violations is also costly for investors and hundreds of construction workers, and the SMN must act together.
Nairobi County must act quickly and take decisive action to stop future violations of the approval system. It is not the first time that the NMS has suspended the QR code system due to illegal access by criminals.
The NMS must conduct an urgent audit on the integrity of the approval system to seal the loopholes.
Hacking threats to electronic systems have increased as more public services are migrated online and the NMS must invest in foolproof technology to safeguard the integrity of its platform.
Investigations should also consider possible misconduct by some officials in charge of the day-to-day operation of the system. Those guilty of crime should be punished to deter such behavior.
The benefits of the online approval system are many and the NMS must not lose the battle with criminals.