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Judiciary shake-up plan as audit shows staff doing wrong jobs

By Kamau Muthoni | November 23rd 2018
Chief Justice David Maraga. [Beverlyne Musili/Standard]

A report launched by Chief Justice David Maraga on how the Judiciary operates has made shocking revelations on its staff and general management structure.

If you walk to courts today, you will find a smiling security officer who will check and welcome you while another staff will receive and store your case file.

A report obtained by The Standard reveals that a security officer was employed as a Human Relations officer while the one who handled your file was hired as a security personnel. According to the report, there is a mismatch of job roles in the Judiciary and there are no clear job descriptions.

The report dubbed 'Judiciary Organisation Review' paints a grim picture in the second arm of Government, where security guards go to an extent of proof-reading court documents, assessing court fees and updating the court diary.

A major shakeup is in the offing following the report. Some of the proposed changes involves having all employees graded into 11 levels.  The highest in the rank will be Grade One which will be occupied by directors, executive officer, chief of staff in the Chief Justice’s office and the registrar in the office of the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary.

Management level will be clustered from one to six while junior staff will be from level seven to 11.

Lowest rank

The lowest in the rank, level 11, will be Support Staff One and Two who ought to carry out general jobs. They will be followed by records assistants in court stations supplies chain management assistant two, security guards, library assistants, clerical officer two, secretarial assistant or a transcriber, a customer service assistant or a telephone operator who will be under grade 10.

Out of the evaluation, five job grades will be struck out as the judiciary currently has 16 job grades.

The Maraga changes follows similar moves under his predecessor Willy Mutunga and the 2003 Aaron Ringera Commission and Sharad Rao led Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board(JMVB)2011 purge.

Despite the findings, the Chief Justice promised that no staff would be laid off in the forthcoming job changes.

“I am aware of the challenges in terms of implementation and the anxieties that such a change can bring. While the recommendations in the organisational review report will result in substantial changes in the institutional arrangements and structures in the Judiciary and the Judicial Service Commission, the changes have incorporated the entire current workforce of the Judiciary,” said Justice Maraga.

In court, the proposed station structure a judge will have three staff assigned to him or her- a court assistant, a law clerk or legal researcher and a personal secretary.   The three do not include the driver and security detail.

Lack of staff

On the other hand, every magistrate will have a court assistant and will share a legal researcher and transcriber with other magistrates within a court station.  The ratio will be one legal researcher for five magistrates while the ratio of a transcriber will be one against three magistrates.

Although Justice Maraga is passionate about digitising court proceedings, the report reveals that some staff, including judicial officers, have no clue how a computer works.

An overall observation about the Judiciary in the report is that it does not have enough staff and those who are already working have no definite job structures and roles cut out for them.

It also established that there were different cadres of people doing the same job. You will find an accountant in level one and another in job group two having the same tasks although one earns more than the other.

“Discussions revealed that this problem was caused by the scheme of service. The scheme of service provides that job titles and occupants sit on top of each other without regard to what is done or achieved by the officers in these roles as it provides for career progression based on nothing other than years of service in a role,” the report reads.

A similar observation was replicated in the Human Resource department where HR officers one, two and three have the same role.

There are also similar job titles with a myriad of job grades. In the same HR department, HR assistants are in job groups E, J, H, K and L, while there is no relationship between work level and the grade. Chief HR officers were also found in three different job grades.

The other startling revelation was incorrect job responsibilities assigned to a job title. For instance, a store keeper was tasked to negotiate contracts and procurement roles while an accounts assistant had heavy financial responsibilities.

It was also established that there were those who held positions that they had no qualification in. It was noted that one of the senior procurement assistants had only a secondary school certificate.  Ordinarily, the holder of such a position should at least have a degree.

The report further reads that staff in the Judiciary are often transferred to new stations but their job titles do not change to reflect their new responsibilities. They are also deployed to new stations without considering their job titles or employment history. This leads to having some stations lacking crucial skills and others doing what they were not trained in.

At the Supreme Court, the report reveals that there is unclear reporting line for staff working for the Chief Justice.

It showed a lack of criteria for allocation of staff to judges at the highest court in the land, such that some had more staff than others.

In the office of Chief Registrar Ann Amadi, it was established that she has a very large span of control where she heads nine directorates, six registrars and staff who report to them, and she is also a secretary to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). She, too, does not have enough staff for her office, according to the report.

In the Court of Appeal, there is no secretariat to manage the presidency office headed by Justice William Ouko.

The report reveals that some court have excess staff than they require. In Mombasa, for example, the recommended number is 105, yet the actual number of those working is 157. Kakamega has an excess of 43, Nakuru 45, Eldoret 52 and Meru 35.

On the other hand, some courts are short of staff, with the Khadhis courts being the most affected.

The High Court has a different challenge. It was established that there was a disproportionate manning and skills set. In addition, there are no ways of measuring performance of the court. There are also inadequate deputy registrars.

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