Land Registry Annual Report 2002/03
Securing your property, Supporting an open market
Securing your property, Supporting an open market
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Ten-Year Review

"The objective of establishing the Trading Fund is to improve the quality of services provided to the customers of the Land Registry" said the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands on 30 June 1993 when introducing the motion to establish the Land Registry as a Trading Fund Department. "I can fairly say that all professionals who have to deal with the Land Registry are looking forward to the setting up of the trading fund so that we can obtain the services expected of an international financial centre" responded the Convenor of the Bills Committee. How far has that objective been realised and those hopes fulfilled over the first decade of the Trading Fund? A comparison between performance standards in 1993 and 2003 gives a clear answer to that question.

Performance Pledges
The table below compares the actual performance of the Land Registry in 1993 before creation of the Trading Fund and the performance pledges that we aim to meet this year before the introduction of central registration and our new Integrated Registration Information System (IRIS).

  Service Type Standard for 1993/94 Standard for 2003/04
1. Registration of land documents 26 working days 20 working days
2. Search of computerised land registers and records 30 minutes 20 minutes
3. Supply of copies of land records 30 minutes 20 minutes
4. Certification of copies of land records 8 working days 5 working days for imaged copies with plans and 3 working days for imaged copies without plans
5. 'All Services' service at the Central Search Office No standard 30 minutes
6. Certification of computerised land registers No standard 1/2 working day
7. Certified copies of computerised land registers via Direct Access Services (DAS) No standard 2 working days
8. Certified copies of land records via DAS No standard 5 working days
9. Supply of copies of land records ordered via DAS No standard Dispatch within 1 working day
10. Approval of Memorial Day Book applications No standard 2 working days
11. Delivery of Memorial Day Book diskettes by courier No standard Dispatch within 1 working day excluding Saturdays
12. Approval of Monthly Memorial Information on Mortgage Transactions applications No standard 2 working days
13. Delivery of Monthly Memorial Information on Mortgage Transactions diskettes by courier No standard Dispatch within 6 working days excluding Saturdays at the beginning of the month

Note: Performance Pledges for Service Types '5' to '13' were introduced after 1993/94.

Building Better Service
Improvement to service has followed from commitment to a number of key factors.

Staff Training and Development
In March 1996, the Land Registry set up its own Training Unit to enhance staff's learning capacity and support a culture of self-development and continuous learning among all members of the department. A Human Resources Management Plan was developed in 1996 and communicated to all staff. It is regularly reviewed and enhanced to encourage further improvement by staff and to meet rising public expectations for quality service. An in-house Learning Resource Centre has been established at the Training Unit in the main office and remote learning facilities provided to all branch offices.

In January 1997, a performance incentive scheme was introduced. It aims to encourage increased productivity, reduced process costs and stronger teamwork.

In 2002, a programme was begun to send Land Registration Officers on attachment to Land Registries overseas that have developed advanced systems. This aims to familiarise the department's officers with the potential of new systems to improve registry services. It also provides an introduction to the requirements of operating a title registration which we aim to introduce to ultimately replace the existing deeds registration system.

New Technology
In September 1994, customers who previously had to come to the various land registries to request searches of information in the registers began to receive information in their own offices. The 'Direct Access Services' introduced that month allowed full computerised searching of the Urban land registers. By September 1995 this service was extended to the New Territories Town Lots and by April 1997 was extended to all parts of the territory.

To assist customers carry out searches more conveniently, in January 1999, the Central Search Office began to offer a cross district search service. This was extended to the New Territories Land Registry offices in October 2000, allowing the public to visit any office and conduct land searches across the whole territory.

To enable the Direct Access Services to cover the whole of Hong Kong, a programme to convert all one million manual registers kept in the New Territories offices into computer records was begun in May 1994 and was completed in April 1997.

In July 1996, work began to convert all 144 million pages of land documents held by the Registry into digital images for easy storage and retrieval. The work was completed in just two years. All registered land documents are now recorded on optical disks and can be retrieved and reproduced at high speed to meet customer requirements.

To improve further the usefulness of documents to customers, a programme to convert 3.5 million plans attached to land documents into high quality colour images was begun in March 2002. The work proceeded smoothly and was extended to cover the 539 volumes of Block Government Leases. These, together with all existing plans, were completed in February 2003.

A range of information that assists analysts, estate agents and conveyancers has been made available in electronic format through diskettes or compact disks. Memorial Day Book data has been offered on disk since 1995 and Monthly Memorial Information on Mortgage Transactions since 2000. The Street Index for urban properties was issued in compact disk format in 1999 and the Lot/Address Cross Reference Table for the New Territories was published in this form in 2000.

Strategic Planning
As a customer service oriented organisation, the Land Registry has set out systematically to improve the quality of its services while maintaining an efficient, cost effective organisation. In June 1998, the Land Registry secured support from the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands for a comprehensive programme of change to the legislation, organisation and information systems employed by the Land Registry so as to deliver best practice services to meet the expectations of the public and the business community.

The key step in this strategy was to secure amendment to the Land Registration Ordinance to allow the organisational merging of the Urban and New Territories Land Registries. This was achieved in July 2002, allowing the Land Registry to initiate the contract for the Integrated Registration Information System (IRIS) in August that year. IRIS will provide the technological support for the organisational change. Both will be put into operation together in early 2004.

Financial Discipline
The Land Registry has been required to achieve a 10% annual rate of return on average net fixed assets. It has had to pay dividends and notional tax on profits as well as repay start up loans and find the resources to fund further investment in facilities and equipment. The target rate of return has been met in every year of our first decade. We have made no increases in fees and charges since 1996. We have repaid $212.9 million in start up loans. We have already invested $426.2 million in capital projects to improve services and have committed ourselves to a further $155.4 million for phase 1 of the strategic change plan.

Looking Back and Looking Forward
The preceding pages show that the Land Registry Trading Fund has done much to live up to expectations placed in it by Government and by the public when it was set up a decade ago. But satisfaction of past expectations is not sufficient. At the heart of the changes in the department over the last decade has been preparation to do even better for the community we serve in the years ahead.


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