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Lack of funds still bedevils Maraga's Judiciary

Friday June 14 2019

Judiciary

Judiciary Chief Registrar Anne Amadi, in Nairobi on February 20, 2019, addresses National Assembly's Justice committee about the agency's budget. The Judiciary is still battling low funding. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

SAMWEL OWINO
By SAMWEL OWINO
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Despite having a workforce of 5,698 and offices spread across the country, the Judiciary gets less than half of what legislators spend, greatly disadvantaging it, compared with the other arms of the government.

So, it was not surprising that when Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich read the Budget Thursday afternoon, the Judiciary was allocated just Sh18.8 billion compared with Parliament’s Sh43.6 billion.

The national government got Sh1.84 trillion while county governments got Sh371.6 billion.

The situation has seen the government keep a few hundred politicians happy at the expense of thousands of staff of Judicial Service Commission (JSC) staff, even as the backlog of cases continues to grow.

MBADI'S DEFENCE

National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi has defended the huge allocation to Parliament, saying it operates differently from the Judiciary.

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Acknowledging that the Judiciary has a huge workforce, Mr Mbadi however pointed out that the structure at the Judiciary is thinner at the top and wider at the base compared with Parliament, where all MPs have the same terms of service.

He also noted that while judges and magistrate’ salaries come from the Consolidated Fund, MPs’ salaries are drawn from their allocation.

Mr Mbadi added that a big chunk of Parliament’s funds are used by its committees for travel, as they go about their oversight work.

“Historically, the budget of the Judiciary has always been less than Parliament’s, but it has been increasing every financial year. In addition, MPs also have offices both in Nairobi and at their constituencies, which have staff paid by Parliament,” Mr Mbadi said.

ALLOCATION

The "State of the Judiciary and Administration of Justice Report" 2017/2018 launched in February this year indicates that its budget has not grown in tandem with the national budget.

“While the Executive has been receiving an average of 97 per cent, the Judiciary’s share has remained below one per cent of the national budget over the years.

"In the FY 2017/18, the budget went down to 0.7 per cent, negatively impacting the achievement of planned targets and consequent realisation of the Judiciary’s mandate,” says the report.

The national budget grew from Sh1.5 trillion in the 2015/2016 FY to Sh1.7 trillion in the 2016/2017 FY, and to Sh2.0 trillion in the 2017/2018 financial year.

GRAFT WAR

Meanwhile, the Judiciary’s allocation fell from 1.4 per cent in the 2016/2017 FY to 0.9 per cent in the 2017/2018 FY, affecting many of its operations.

“The expectation was for an increment in the Judiciary budget to fund critical emerging issues, notably the hearing and finalisation of election disputes. This led to the accumulation of recurrent pending bills amounting to Sh246 million at the end of the financial years,” adds the report.

The Judiciary’s allocation for development dropped from 0.5 per cent in FY 2016/2017 to 0.2 per cent in FY 2017/2018, while the Executive’s increased from 99.1 percent to 99.5 per cent during the same period.

When she appeared before the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee in April this year to present the Judiciary’s Budget Policy Statement, Chief Registrar Anne Amadi noted that corruption cases were likely to be hampered in the next financial year if the Judiciary did not get additional funds.

Ms Amadi added that a number of projects such as the e-filing system, e-collection and receipting of revenue collection, and the automation of court processes would also be affected.

She further noted that inadequate budgetary allocations would also affect the pending mortgages of judges and Judiciary staff amounting to Sh800 million. Of the Sh800 million, Ms Amadi said, judges were owed Sh500 million, while staff were owed Sh300 million.