Digitise Judiciary to enhance justice delivery
rom Martha Karua’s election petition against Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru to a protracted battle over a prime piece of property between a prominent businessman and a local bank, missing court documents have dealt a denting blow to court cases. Missing court files are just some of the challenges Kenya’s Judiciary faces in its role of administering justice. Other challenges include the lack of video and audio recordings, a robust data management system and trained judicial staff, especially stenographers.
From Martha Karua’s election petition against Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru to a protracted battle over a prime piece of property between a prominent businessman and a local bank, missing court documents have dealt a denting blow to court cases. Missing court files are just some of the challenges Kenya’s Judiciary faces in its role of administering justice. Other challenges include the lack of video and audio recordings, a robust data management system and trained judicial staff, especially stenographers.The last challenge i.e. the lack of trained stenographers, trained speech transcribers, is especially challenging to magistrates and judges who have to take voluminous notes from advocates during court proceedings when ideally most of their focus should be on listening to arguments and taking notes on pertinent issues raised by advocates during trial.Note taking, a tedious exercise, is also cited as one of the reasons why there is a huge backlog of court cases, some taking over a decade to resolve, which of course has an impact on the general economy. Improving the rate at which cases are resolved would boost Kenya’s scores in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking.Complicating the issue is a shortage of staff such as clerks who would assist magistrates and judges by making sure that lawyers cite the right cases during trial.Verification of the right citation is an important role as it ensures that a judge or magistrate does not rely on the wrong cases to make rulings.These shortcomings have serious implications especially when there is an appeal. Is a ruling effective in the case where evidence is missing? On what basis can one appeal a ruling when there were no witness statements recorded?These are fundamental questions facing our judicial system today. One way that we can overcome these challenges and enhance justice delivery is by modernizing our courts to allow for video, audio recordings, introducing of trained stenographers and implementing robust ICT systems which would eliminate the of court files.
Fortunately there are local institutions whom the Judiciary can borrow a leaf from including the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) which implemented an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system in 2016 with a great level of success.The ECM system, a $6.5 million case management system aimed at smoothening operations, enabled IPOA to improve and hasten decision making due to the availability of real time data, reports and dashboards.The ECM system eliminated duplication of cases, processes, records and tasks which in turn enabled the Authority save time and other resources.At any given time it is now possible to exactly know the progress of each case and the result is that there are less complaints against IPOA as there is reduced follow through on cases. The ECM system is an example of investments in ICT that the Judiciary can make to enhance the justice delivery to Kenyans while at the same time creating a conducive working environment for the judicial staff. At a time when Kenya is gaining a reputation as a global leader in innovation, especially in mobile money payments, it is ironic that the Judiciary is still using manual systems yet there are armies of techies in our Silicon Savannah who can come up with solutions that can enhance our Judiciary’s efficiency.Let us adopt modern day technology to enhance service delivery to Kenyans.Macharia Njeru, former chairman, Independent Police Oversight Authority(IPOA) and an advocate of the High Court of Kenya.