, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 4 – Kenya’s justice to population ratio now stands at a judge to at least 304,000 citizens.
With the World Bank projecting the country’s population to have grown from 47.24 million in 2015 to 48.46 million in 2016, the magistrate to citizen ratio is 1:115,000.
According to the Judiciary and the Administration of Justice Report (SOJAR) 2016-2017 released by Chief Justice David Maraga on December 15, there are 158 judges, 421 magistrates, and 55 kadhis spread across the nation.
Although there was no mention of the desired justice to population ratio in the report, there was a significant increase in pending cases with the annual publication showing that there were 533,350 cases pending in law courts countrywide.
A total of 344,180 of over half a million cases pending, were filed during the reporting period (Financial Year 2016/17).
The hiring of 28 judges in the 2016/17 year alone notwithstanding, the increasing pendency was notable if a Judiciary Case Audit and Institutional Capacity Survey unveiled in August 2014 is anything to go by.
The survey recorded the number of pending cases as at June 30, 2013 at 426,508.
At the time of the 2014 audit, the justice to population ratio was a judge to 300,000 Kenyans and a magistrate for every 80,000. The audit was pegged on an estimated population of 40 million.
With the number of cases growing over the years, over 60,000 had by the time of the publication of the SOJAR 2016-2017 been pending for at least five years.
Justice Maraga however announced a raft of measures geared towards concluding cases that have overstayed in courts through a rapid campaign to be launched this year.
“66,214 cases are aged 5-10 years and we have embarked on an accelerated case clearance programme to conclude all cases that are older than five years by the end of 2018,” Maraga announced.
A number of new court stations are still under construction, 10 having been concluded in the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year according to Justice Maraga.
The new stations are located in Bungoma, Garsen, Rongo, and Mpeketoni.
About five courts are expected to be commissioned in the first quarter of 2018 in Chuka, Kigumo, Molo, and Makindu.
The Judiciary has decried inadequate annual allocations from the exchequer which Maraga said stood at an average of one per cent of national budget.
“Indeed, in this financial year, it (Judiciary funding/allocation) slipped to 0.99 per cent. This falls below the internationally recommended Judiciary Budget of 2.5 per cent of the national budget,” he pointed out albeit a 67 per cent absorption rate.
The Judiciary intends to commence a capital intensive project as it plans to start the construction of a Court of Appeal building in Upper Hill to pave way for the relocation of the court from the Supreme Court buildings.
Currently, there are over 20 government-funded projects at different stages of completion in various law courts.
The projects include construction of new buildings, refurbishment of old courthouses, installation of elevators, drilling of boreholes, construction of cells, electrical works, the building of perimeter fences, latrines/toilets, waiting shades and prefabricated buildings.
The World Bank is also funding about 30 projects through the Judicial Performance Improvement Project (JPIP).
Most of these projects are behind schedule with nine of them still incomplete despite completion dates having been revised.
For instance, a contract awarded to Lunao Enterprises Limited for the construction of a court station in Vihiga at the sum of Sh78,615,579 is still ongoing despite having been scheduled to be completed on January 14, 2017 (revised). The project is now 88 per cent done.
Another project in Nyando awarded to Philmark System Services Limited at the sum of 74,827,121 is pending completion. Now 84 per cent complete, the project was expected to be concluded by February 3, 2017.
Other works pending despite their due dates having lapsed are at the Oyugis, Nyamira and Muhoroni Law Courts.
The projects were awarded to Sasah Contractors Limited, JN Investment Limited and Philmark System Services Limited at the cost of Sh109,731,080, Sh118,305,748 and Sh74,902,949 respectively.
Expected to have been delivered by December 2016, the three projects are at completion rates ranging between 65 and 88 per cent.