By Pravin Bowry
For over a century the Judiciary had toiled under the Treasury for its financial requirements until the 2010 Constitution made it semi - autonomous with the creation of the “ Judiciary Fund”. Now the lawyer - turned – budget - guru, Ndei MP Robinson Githae, has given the Judiciary a whooping Sh15.4 billion to embark on its reforms.
This almost 100 per cent mouthwatering increase from last year’s budget must augur well and, good governance and controls under the leadership of Chief Justice Willy Mutunga will bring hope to all those involved in the legal system.
This generous allocation is only a faint silver lining in matters of money and the Judiciary. Many important matters need to be addressed if the Judiciary is to be transformed effectively — and Parliament is yet to enact regulations to control the Judiciary Fund as required under Article 173 (5)!
Millions of shillings are lost annually in non collection of court fees and manipulation of payment of court fees by conspiring lawyers, litigants and court clerks. Since introduction of electronic payments of court fees – but not in all judicial stations in the country – the court fees has in some stations tripled.
Despite annual audits we have never been told where and how the funds were disappearing. Why not?
In its criminal jurisdiction, the Judiciary is a huge cash cow for revenue collection. The recent policy to favour cash bail for most accused charged has resulted in millions being deposited daily.
On any working day, in petty and serious cases, hundreds of Kenyans are ordered released on cash bail pending trials which sometime last up to four or more years. Imagine an accused paying Sh2 million cash bail on a charge of murder and not receiving any interest for say three years when the case is finalised.
Which account does this money go to does it earn interest for the state? (Or why is this money not returned to accused after the trial process with interest at bank rates?)
In the same tone, courts daily order Kenyans to pay fines which, too, are colossal. Where does all this money go under the new constitutional order and how it is used or likely to be used by the Judiciary should be made clearer to the general public.