Why is Judiciary being fiscally strangled?

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About 41 government-funded projects, worth some Sh1.93 billion, are likely to stall owing to the drastic cuts in budgetary allocations to the fourth arm of Government, Chief Justice David Maraga has warned.

Further, the CJ said in a statement, there is an imminent expiry of the Judicial Performance Improvement Project (JPIP), the Sh11.5 billion World Bank loan facility through which many Judiciary projects have been funded.

Lamenting the cuts, Maraga noted that out Sh31.2 billion requested in the current financial year, out of which Sh19.8 billion was to go to recurrent budget, Sh11.4 billion (Comprising GoK funding of Sh8.5 billion and a World Bank loan of Sh2.9 billion) to development and Sh891 million to  the Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) resource requirements.

14.5B

Amount Parliament assigned the Judiciary in its Appropriations Bill

In its Budgetary Policy Statement, however, Treasury capped the Judiciary’s budget at Sh17.3 billion, nearly half of what the Judiciary had requested, cutting down the recurrent expenditure by Sh2.5 billion to Sh13.3 billion and development budget by Sh7.4 billion to Sh4 billion, while JSC was given Sh479.6 million, some Sh411.4 million less.

But, Parliament, in the Appropriation Act, further trimmed the figure to Sh14.5 billion, with only Sh50 million allocated for development – Sh2.6 billion was allocated in 2014/15 – a move that has left the Judiciary at a loss as to how they are supposed to proceed.

“The Sh50 Million is expected to cover new and ongoing projects, repairs and maintenance, as well as ICT infrastructure for the courts,” lamented the CJ, noting that more than 70 court construction projects will stall, especially given that the World Bank funding, through which 29 of the projects are financed, expires in December and “there seems to be no willingness to extend it.”

According to CJ Maraga, virtually all development projects will stall. Only Sh50M was allocated

The other foreseen effects of the budget cuts include suspension of Mobile Courts.“The undertaking by the Chief Justice to ensure that all cases above five years old are cleared by December 2018 is now a mirage. This is because our backlog clearance strategy involves moving judges and magistrates from their stations to assist in areas with heavy backlogs during Service Weeks. This will no longer be possible,” the CJ said.

The initiative to modernise ICT and court systems will also suffer, not to mention a JSC that is likely to face a serious financial crisis that could hamper its critical operations.

The Judiciary is at a properly orchestrated crisis, and one would be forgiven for thinking so, particularly considering Parliament allocated itself a staggering Sh42 billion, out of which about one third will be gobbled up by allowances and travel expenses.

In other words, out of all the possible areas Parliament could have effected these cuts in, it chose the Judiciary, an institution with which it has had well documented supremacy tussles.

In the ongoing war on corruption, the Judiciary is expected to play a critical role in the dispensation of justice, both the State and the accused, and a scenario where judicial officers will be constrained for basics – including medical allowance, which has been suspended twice now – should never be allowed, no matter how badly the Executive and the Legislature want to revisit what they consider grave slighting by the justice arm.

To some observers, however, what these cuts confirm is the government has been plundered broke, and is grasping for air itself.

With no other avenue in sight for extra money, the decision was reached to cut spending, evidenced by the President’s suspension of new development projects, until ongoing ones are complete – a euphemism for ‘we are in the red, financially’, and not so much about the war on graft as was pronounced.

Since last year, Treasury CS has confirmed at least once that government is broke, and has had to borrow to sustain government functions; other institutions have speculated as such – by inference – at least three times. This latest twist is no coincidence.

Be that as it may, crippling operations at the Judiciary affects every least one of us, and must not be allowed to continue.

The country needs assurances that the dispensation of justice will not be stalled because of lack of funds while the cesspit that is parliament continue to swim in money, literally.

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