Is the Judiciary grinding to a halt?

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About 41 government-funded projects at various stages of completion, totalling Sh1.93 billion, are likely to stall owing to the drastic cuts in budgetary allocations to the fourth arm of Government, Chief Justice David Maraga has warned.

The CJ also revealed in a statement to media on the state of the Judiciary, that there is an imminent expiry of the Judicial Performance Improvement Project (JPIP), the Sh11.5 billion World Bank loan facility through which many of the Judiciary’s projects have been funded.

The institution requested Sh31.2 billion from the Government to support its operations for the current financial year. Out of this, Sh19.8 billion was to go to recurrent expenditure, Sh11.4 billion (Comprising GoK funding of Sh8.5 billion and a World Bank loan of Sh2.9 billion) to development, and Sh891 million to the Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) resource requirements.

Government’s Budgetary Policy Statement, however, capped the Judiciary’s budget at Sh17.3 billion, nearly half less of the amount requested, cutting down recurrent expenditure by Sh2.5 billion to Sh13.3 billion, development budget by Sh7.4 billion to Sh4 billion while JSC was given Sh479.6, which was Sh411.4 million less.

Still, Parliament, in the Appropriation Act, defied even the National Government’s Budgetary Policy statement and further cut down the total figure to Sh14.5 billion, with only Sh50 million allocated as development budget as opposed to Sh2.6 billion allocated in the 2014/15 financial year, a move that has left the Judiciary at a loss as to how it’s supposed to proceed.

“The Sh50 Million is expected to cover new and ongoing projects, repairs and maintenance, as well as ICT infrastructure for the courts. We are at a loss over how to use this money,” lamented the CJ, adding that more than 70 court construction projects will stall, especially it being that the World Bank funding through which 29 of the projects are financed, expires in December and “there seems to be no willingness to extend it.”

The other foreseen effects of the budget cuts include suspension of Mobile Courts, which will see operations of more than 50 mobile courts across the country stop, thereby derailing clearance of case backlogs.

“The undertaking by the Chief Justice to ensure that all cases above five years old are cleared by December 2018 is now a mirage. This is because our backlog clearance strategy involves moving Judges and Magistrates from their stations to assist in areas with heavy backlogs during Service Weeks. With the current allocations, this will no longer be possible,” the CJ said.

The initiative to modernise ICT and court systems will also suffer greatly following the cuts as, according to Maraga, none of those programmes can continue.

It also means that the planned construction of the Court of Appeal premises at Upper Hill and court complexes in Meru and Kisii will be shelved, not to mention a JSC that is likely to face a serious financial crisis that could hamper its critical operations.

By the time of going to press, the NBM also learnt that judicial personnel had not been paid their July salaries, which they ordinarily receive by the 19th.