NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 24 – A total of 70 ongoing court modernization and construction projects are headed for a halt following drastic budgetary cuts, Chief Justice David Maraga warned on Tuesday.
According to Maraga, the downward revision of Judiciary funding capped at Sh17.3 billion in the 2018/19 national budgetary policy statement to Sh14.5 billion in the Appropriation Act had left the Judiciary with only Sh50 million in development budget.
While addressing the press at the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice expressed disappointment at the unilateral decision to reduce Judiciary’s allocation despite the judicature having requested a total of Sh31.3 billion during the budget-making process.
“When Parliament passed the Appropriation Act, the Judiciary’s total budget allocation was further reduced to Sh14.5 billion. Out of this, the development budget from the government is only Sh50 million, compared to Sh2.6 billion allocated to the Judiciary in the 2014/15 Financial Year,” Maraga drew comparison.
The Chief Justice said as a consequence of the budget cut, 41 government-funded projects will stall with another 29 funded by the World Bank facing similar fate.
Maraga expressed frustration with the National Treasury’s unwillingness to approve an extension of World Bank loan facility extended to the Judiciary upon which 29 ongoing projects are reliant set to end in December this year.
“The government’s cut in the Judiciary Budget is made worse by the imminent expiry of the Judicial Performance Improvement Project (JPIP), the Sh11.5 billion World Bank loan facility through which many of the Judiciary projects have been funded,” he noted.
In total, the 41 government-funded would require Sh1.9 billion to be concluded.
These include a Sh330 million Marsabit Law Courts construction, Sh315 million Kabarnet Law Courts building and Sh316 million project at the Homa Bay Law Courts.
Other ongoing government-funded projects include the construction of Judicial Service Commission offices at the cost of Sh10 million and a Sh1.3 million Standards Tribunal building.
The reduced funding of the judiciary will impede the expedition of backlog with the looming suspension of mobile court operations in fifty court stations.
The suspension of mobile courts will also deal a blow to Maraga’s commitment to clearing over 60,000 cases aged between 5-10 years by the end of the year.
The adoption of electronic transcription will also be held back according to the Chief Justice with new construction projects slated for the current year, among them the construction of a new Court of Appeal premises in Upper Hill, set to be shelved.
“We had planned to start new constructions of the Court of Appeal premises at Upper Hill and Court complexes in Meru and Kisii. These are now out of question,” Maraga stated.
The JSC will also be compelled to make do with Sh364 million, down from Sh891 million it had requested.
Maraga warned that budgetary constraints could negatively impact on the country’s economic performance noting that a swift justice system was critical to enhancing investor confidence in the economy.
“The Judiciary exists not for its own sake but to serve the common person by ensuring the efficient administration of justice and facilitating smooth commercial interactions between business entities,” he said.
“That is why, for example, reforms in the Judiciary have such a positive impact for Kenya in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking. There just can’t be a good enough reason to impede the work of the Judiciary through budgetary strangulation,” Maraga cautioned.
Kenya’s Ease of Doing Business ranking rose significantly last year moving twelve places up to position 80, the determination of some 93 cases pending at the Commercial Division of the High Court alone facilitating the release of Sh1.1 billion, tied up in litigation, to the economy.
Maraga has in the past described current funding of the judiciary estimated at 0.99 per cent of the national budget as inadequate against the globally recommended threshold of 2.5 per cent.