, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 10 – Chief Justice David Maraga has recommended the allocation of minimum 1.5 per cent of the national budget to the Judiciary to facilitate smooth operations.
Maraga who spoke during the opening on the Law Society of Kenya Annual Conference in Diani on Thursday said the 1.5 per cent quota should progressively be enhanced to attain the globally recommended threshold of 2.5 per cent.
He said the Judiciary was already engaging other arms of government with a view of addressing its budget deficit with the current allocation of Sh14.5 billion for the 2018/19 financial year capping development expenditure at Sh50 million.
“I am grateful to President Uhuru Kenyatta for adding his voice to our dilemma. We are in discussions with other Arms of Government on that and I am hopeful that a lasting solution will be found,” he told lawyers at the conference.
In order to address bottlenecks in the utilization of funds allocated to the Judiciary due to late disbursements, Maraga said he was keen on ensuring that regulations guiding the operationalization of the Judiciary Fund are concluded to strengthen the independence of the judiciary.
Once the fund is established, the Chief Justice said monies allocated to the judiciary should be deposited to the Judiciary Fund Account as soon as the budget speech is presented to the National Assembly.
“For the Judiciary to operate efficiently, it should be allocated between 1.5 and 2.5pc of the national budget which should be deposited in the Judiciary Fund Account immediately after the Budget Speech,” he said.
Maraga raised alarm over the drastic reduction in resources allocated to the judiciary on July 24 when he pointed out that at least seventy ongoing court modernization and expansion projects would stall as a result of inadequate funding.
According to Maraga, the judiciary had requested for a total of Sh31.3 billion during the budget-making process only for it to be allocated Sh17.3 billion in the 2018/19 national budgetary statement, an amount that was revised to Sh14.5 billion in the Appropriation Act.
“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 when he addressed the press in July.
The Chief Justice said 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 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 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 at the time.
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 which remains below 1 per cent of the national budget as inadequate against the globally recommended threshold of 2.5 per cent.
Following his outcry, Deputy President William Ruto on July 26 pledged to intervene to ensure that judiciary’s budget is reviewed.
“We will find a solution and ensure all arms of the Government are working together. We understand the concerns raised by the Judiciary and we will continue engaging each other to find a solution,” he said during the official opening of the African Bar Association conference at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.
“As much as we have competing priorities, including provision of water, electricity, construction of roads in all corners of the country, we will not leave the functioning of the Judiciary behind,” he assured.