Revelations from the State of the “Judiciary and Administration of Justice in Kenya” report released on January 23, 2020 brought to light critical issues in our Judiciary that ought not to be taken lightly.
As an institution mandated by the Constitution to independently deliver justice, it ought to be taken care of better.
The Judiciary is among the lead institutions in the fight against the cancer of corruption that Kenya is struggling to liberate itself from.
This comes in the wake of Transparency International’s ranking of Kenya at 28th out of 100 in the 2019 Corruption Perception Index report.
Chief Justice David Maraga revealed that last year, the Judiciary was hit by abrupt and unexplained budget cuts.
This, he explained, brought some functions of the Judiciary to a halt. His efforts to reach the relevant officials over the issue were futile.
Finance came out as the biggest problem facing our Judiciary. The finance problems have led to a huge backlog of cases in the courts, against CJ Maraga’s promise sometimes last year.
The report also indicated that the government was only funding 20 per cent of the Judiciary budget.
The World Bank-funded Judicial Performance Improvement Programme funds about 80 per cent of the Judiciary’s infrastructure projects.
It is therefore, in my opinion, absurd that the state cut down the Judiciary’s budget while it funds such a small percentage of it anyway.
Kenya stands to benefit significantly from a well-funded Judiciary system. Such a system would be independent, as it should, infallible and incorruptible.
Shortage of manpower was also cited as a problem facing the Judiciary, which undoubtedly circles back to lack of proper finance that could facilitate the hiring of required personnel.
According to the report, the Judiciary was able to release Sh7.2 billion that was stuck in litigation through mediation to the Kenyan economy.
The Judiciary also managed to settle several cases informally through adjudicators and arbitration. These they managed despite the challenges they faced.
The President told Maraga that Kenyans expect swift convictions of the corrupt individuals this year.
Inasmuch as the President encouraged institutions to work with the resources they have, more funds need to be allocated to the Judiciary.
As a country, we should not have high expectations of the Judiciary while at the same time underfunding it.
This, in my opinion, would not be any better than expecting a lot of milk from a sick, underfed and malnourished cow.
BRIAN MUTORO, Nairobi