Empowering Operational Staff: Land Registration in Sarawak, Malaysia, 2006-2009

From 2006 to 2009, Sudarsono Osman, director of the Land and Survey Department in Malaysia’s Sarawak state, worked to make land registration processes more efficient by empowering operational staff. Before Osman’s tenure, registration processes were complex, and citizens waited anywhere from a day to a year to obtain registered titles. Osman challenged the registrars at the Kuching land registry, Sarawak’s busiest, to develop and implement improvements that would become templates for the rest of the department. The Kuching registrars streamlined application forms, created a queuing system, facilitated crosschecking of information, simplified complicated procedures, reorganized the workplace and stringently monitored employees. By early 2009, the Kuching registry had eliminated its backlog of 1,736 titles and achieved 100% single-day registration. Osman extended Kuching’s initiatives to each of the department’s 10 other divisional registries, holding superintendents accountable by systematically evaluating their registries’ progress. By December 2009, the department had erased its backlog and achieved 98%-100% single-day registration across its 11 divisional registries.
Deepa Iyer drafted this policy memo on the basis of interviews conducted in Kuching, Malaysia, in March 2011. Case published September 2011.
document processing
land registry
Focus Area(s)
Civil Service
Critical Tasks
Single agency turnaround
Core Challenge
Principal-agent problem (delegation)
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Deepa Iyer