The Land Registry 2006/07 Annual Report

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Fourteenth Year in Review

Land Registrar's Statement, 2007

I am pleased to present the report for the Land Registry Trading Fund for the financial year ending on 31 March 2007. In the run up to the tenth anniversary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region the Trading Fund was in good financial heart, steady progress was being made towards the introduction of title registration and the quality of services continued to improve.

Business Environment

Despite a significant decline in registration business over the year the trading fund maintained a strong performance with a return on average net fixed assets of over 22%, well above the target set by the Treasury. I was pleased to see that the volume of searches carried out did not fall significantly, an indication that the reduced cost and increased ease of searching using the Integrated Registration Information System (IRIS) system may be bringing continued advantage to users and to our own business volumes. Looking forward, the anticipated increase in civil service pay in 2007 will impact on our costs in coming years. We do not expect to see this requiring any increase in fees and charges in the near term. Our emphasis will continue to be on ensuring increased efficiency in operations so as to contain the cost of services to users.

Title Registration

There were three major developments during the year. First, in July 2006 a working draft of the planned Land Titles (Amendment) Bill was issued to major stakeholders for consideration. The major purpose of this draft was to present the proposed reorganization and redrafting of the Land Titles Ordinance 2004 and to address concerns raised about the complexity of the language and organization of that legislation. The proposed redrafting was widely welcomed. Second, the extent of work still needed to deal with outstanding issues raised by the Bills Committee Report in 2004; to address concerns about the indemnity arrangements; to handle an emerging issue of registers that may need to be excluded from conversion; and, to ensure compatibility between the Land Titles Ordinance and other existing legislation, led to the conclusion that the amendment bill could not be introduced during the current term of the Legislative Council. A progress report has been submitted to the Legislative Council Panel on Planning, Lands and Works, advising that the bill will be introduced in the 2008/09 legislative session. Third, a revised strategy for IT development to support title registration was formulated. Under this, a new system, the Title Registration Information System (TRIS) will be constructed, together with a new external search system which will be used by both the TRIS and the existing IRIS system, which will be maintained to handle continuing deeds registration work.

It has taken longer than expected to bring the title registration system to the point where it can commence. The matters where preparation of amendments is still required, however, are substantive issues that will have significant bearing on the operation of the new system. I am certain that it is right to deal with them now, rather than push forward the start of title registration with uncertainties for the public, practitioners and for Government. While the work of legislative drafting and scrutiny proceeds, the Land Registry team will be doing all we can to advance other preparations so that the gap between enactment of the amendment bill and the commencement of title registration can be kept to a minimum.

I am grateful for the hard work of the Legal Services Team and the Title Registration Development Team over the year. I am grateful, too, for the support given by the Lands Department in the work that has been started to investigate cases that may present difficulties at the time of conversion of the deeds registers. I would also like to pay particular thanks to the members of the Law Society Working Party, who have continued to give so much unstinting, unremunerated but always helpful advice over the year.

Service Improvement

I was pleased to see that during the year all our performance targets were met and that higher targets have been set for registration and counter search services in the coming year. There was also significant improvement in the take up rate for electronic delivery of services, both by regular customers and ad hoc users. By the end of the year around 90% of all searches were being carried out electronically. Despite the focus we must give to preparation for title registration I am determined to ensure continued improvement in the quality and efficiency of the daily services we provide and am grateful to the hard work of the IT team and operations teams in developing and introducing improvement measures.

Looking forward, alongside the work to prepare for title registration the Land Registry will need to respond to growing demand from the public and other branches of government for increased integration and ease of use of electronic services. The revised IT development strategy and the work we are doing with various departments to align data will help us to meet this demand. We will also face continued pressure to demonstrate to the public that we provide services of the highest quality and value. In meeting that demand the quality of the men and women who make up the Land Registry is a great advantage and I thank each of them for another year of excellent service. Their work has been recognized in the Government's customer service awards scheme, in the award of 'Caring Company' certification and in the comments of customers throughout the year. This report is the record of their performance and I am pleased to present their good work to you.

K. A. Salkeld, J.P.
The Land Registrar & General Manager
The Land Registry Trading Fund, Hong Kong
21 September 2007

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