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Judicial work frustrated by financial constraints

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 30 – The judiciary on Monday said it is facing serious financial crisis likely to frustrate its reform agenda in dispensing justice.

Judiciary Chief Registrar Gladys Shollei said the judiciary requires 16. 8 billion shillings but according to estimates released last week the treasury has indicated it can only allocate the judiciary Sh12.5 billion for the 2012/2013 financial year.

“Even with grants, the country must have its own basis of funding the judiciary. If the Judiciary does not obtain the requested funding we will be forced to cancel some of the contracts putting the Judiciary Service Commission in an embarrassing situation,” she asserted.

Shollei who spoke at a breakfast meeting with editors on Monday morning said the budget was allocated without considering that the number of judges was increasing with the ongoing process of judicial reforms.

“At the time the 2011/12 Budget Estimates were prepared, there were only 417 Judicial Officers in place. As the 2011/12 financial year comes to an end, there are now 451 Judicial Officers in place. Most to the point, in the 2012/13 financial year 726 Judicial Officers will be in place,” she said.

Shollei said the huge backdrop has implications in hiring new judges, setting up courts in all the 47 counties and adopting the new technology to boost efficiency.

“Judiciary has asked Parliament for a resource envelope of Sh16.8 billion to address hiring 275 judges, hiring 185 technical staff for every, provision of operational tools for new staff and among others bringing the Industrial Court under the Judiciary, expanding it from 5 to 15 judges,” she explained.

Shollei said the under funding had serious implications on the running of judicial work.

She urged the government to fully fund the judiciary and other line offices such as the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions which are also facing various challenges including an acute shortage of prosecutors.

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Shollei blamed the inadequate budget allocation for the backlog of cases in courts across the country and said the crisis could worsen unless they allocated the money urgently.

As things are now, only 2 judges are responsible for 1 million Kenyans while according to Shollei the judiciary is targeting at having 4 judges for every 1 million Kenyans.

“Proposed amendment to the Judicature Act will take the Kenyan threshold to 150 judges, resulting in a 4 judges to one million people ratio. With elections close by, a large number of petitions are expected. They must be dispensed with in six months. Petitions must be heard at the High Court within the county, or its environs,” she explained.

She also complained that there were only 17 high court stations out of the 47 counties with some areas lacking courts within a 500 kilometre radius.

Another needy are she pointed out at is the number of magistrates which need to be increased from 111 Magistrates to 285 within a 10 year programme

She said as a way of raising revenue, once the judiciary is satisfied with the services it is giving Kenyans, it will consider increasing the service charge. In the last financial year, the judiciary collected Sh1.5 billion from Sh800 million according to Shollei.

Despite the will by the judiciary to fully reform the Kenyan judicial system, the financial constraint will have a heavy bearing on whether it will satisfy the high expectations of Kenyans.

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