Budget woes leave Judiciary with Sh500 million pending bills

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Chief Justice David Maraga during official release of the State of Judiciary Report in Nairobi on Thursday. [Beverlyne Musili, Standard]
The Judiciary has blamed the National Treasury for underfunding, saying the inadequate cash was largely the cause of stalled projects and gaps in service delivery at the country’s law courts.

According to a report released by the Chief Justice on Thursday, the Judiciary has received the lowest share of the national budget among the three arms of government over the past few years.

“The Judiciary has over time been allocated the least amount of money compared to the Executive and the Legislature,” says the State of the Judiciary report.

“The Judiciary budget has remained below one per cent of the national budget over the years. In the 2017/18 financial year, the budget went down to 0.7 per cent, negatively impacting on the achievement of planned targets.” 

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The Judiciary further says the budget shortfall led to accumulation of pending bills amounting to Sh528 million in recurrent and development expenditure at the end of the 2017/2018 financial year, constraining its ability to pay suppliers, service obligations and execute development projects.

“Reduction in development budget for the judiciary impacted negatively on the financing of ongoing infrastructure projects such as courts and ICT projects,” states the report.

“This resulted in failure to complete some of the capital projects since some of the payment certificates could not be honoured.” This has further seen the Judiciary rely on donors to execute development projects such as the Programme for Legal Empowerment and Aid Delivery (Plead), a five-year programme to tackle backlogs in criminal justice institutions in 12 counties.

The programme was launched last year with a Sh3.8 billion line of credit from several donor partners including the United Nations Development Programme and European Development Fund.

Treasury figures indicate the total allocation for the Ministry of Interior, for example, stood at Sh116 billion in the 2017/18 financial year while that of the Judiciary stood at Sh14 billion over the same period.

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The Judiciary had requested Sh35 billion, a 60 per cent shortfall.

The Judiciary’s budget was cut from Sh17 billion in the 2016/2017 financial year to Sh14 billion in the 2017/18 financial year while the other arms of government recorded an increase in allocation over same period.

“This affected the financing of key enablers for justice,” says the Judiciary. “The expectation was for an increment in Judiciary budget to fund critical emerging issues notably the hearing and finalisation of election disputes.”

The number of cases filed across the country’s law courts in the 2017/18 financial year stood at 402,243, a 15 per cent rise from the 344,180 cases filed in previous year.

Turn to donors

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There are currently over 553,000 cases pending in the Judiciary that have accumulated over the years with no clear indication from the Government on how the backlog will be cleared.

The Treasury cut the Judiciary’s development allocation from Sh4 billion in the 2016/17 financial year to Sh1.5 billion in the 2017/18 financial year, forcing the Judiciary to turn to donors once again to fund development projects.

“Of the allocated funds for development vote 78 per cent Sh1.23 billion was from World Bank,” explained the Judiciary report. “Hence, only 22 per cent (Sh340 million) of the development budget was from the Government of Kenya.”

The new revelations are likely to worsen frosty relations between the Executive and the Judiciary that have played out on the public scene over the past two years.

On one hand the Executive has repeatedly blamed the Judiciary for collapsed corruption cases involving billions of shillings such as the scandal involving the National Youth Service that saw several key suspects walk free last month despite billions of public funds having been embezzled from the institution. 

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The Judiciary has on its part blamed the police and public prosecution office for carrying out shoddy investigations that fall apart in court.

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National TreasuryChief JusticeJudiciary reportJudiciaryDavid Maraga