MPs have begun considering a proposed law to enable the Judiciary to become financially independent.
The Judiciary Fund Bill underwent the formal First Reading and had its maturation period reduced from 14 to 11 days, meaning it is now ready for debate. The Bill was published on February 18.
“The objectives of the Fund are to safeguard the financial and operational independence of the Judiciary, ensure accountability for funds allocated to the Judiciary and ensure that the Judiciary has adequate resources for its functions,” the Bill states.
The Bill provides for the Judiciary to deposit into a special kitty the money it is allocated by Parliament, its collections in the form of levies or fees, any grants, gifts and donations and money from any other source.
More importantly, it provides for the Judiciary to retain in the fund all the money it has either received or saved at the end of the financial year.
This means that the arm of government will not have to return to the Treasury any unused money at the end of the financial year on June 30.
It makes it possible for the Judiciary to use its savings for whatever projects it feels are necessary.
The Bill states that the fund shall be used to pay for the administrative expenses of the Judiciary as well as buying land, construction and maintenance of buildings as well as purchase of other assets.
Last year, the Judiciary’s budget was reduced by Sh1 billion by the National Assembly as it sought to find extra money for the counties.
The House also routinely threatens to reduce the allocations for that arm of government whenever it feels slighted by decisions by judges or a statement by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.
The Chief Registrar of the Judiciary will have control over the money and has been given the power to delegate her role as Accounting Officer to a judicial officer or a staff of the Judiciary.
This will, however, have to be in line with the Public Finance Management Act.
The Chief Registrar will also be required to present the financial statements of the Fund to the Auditor-General for scrutiny at the end of every financial year.