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Parliament must explain cutting Judiciary budget

Chief Justice David Maraga says at least 70 projects will suffer because of the financing hitch as the World Bank has also indicated its unwillingness to continue funding projects. The effect, Mr Maraga said, will be suspension of the 50 mobile courts, a hitch on systems automation and suspension of efforts to clear backlog of cases.It will be in the taxpayers’ interest that any project that has gobbled public funds is not allowed to stall.

Parliament owes Kenyans an explanation after it cut the Judiciary’s 2018/19 budget by more than 50 per cent. While it enjoys the overall authority determining public spending plans, its decision to give Judiciary just 46 per cent of what it asked for smacks of mischief.The Judiciary had prepared a Sh31.2 billion plan for the fiscal year, only for the Budget and Appropriation Committee to slash the figure to Sh17.3 billion before MPs further cut it to Sh14.5 billion in the Appropriation Act.First, such action flies in the face of the doctrine of separation of powers that lies at the heart of all that is wrong with this country.

Budget making is a long tortuous process that no public entity should be made to walk in vain.By the time the estimates are presented to Parliament in April, the drawer has had eight months of work, including public participation and engaging the Treasury mandarins.That’s how ridiculous it sounds when Parliament moves in one stroke to award a paltry Sh50m for development to an entity, which has lined up Sh11.4 billion worth of projects for the fiscal year.We hope the MPs — and by extension the Executive — are not playing the usual power games just to stop an organ that has increasingly become assertive in discharging its mandate.Chief Justice David Maraga says at least 70 projects will suffer because of the financing hitch as the World Bank has also indicated its unwillingness to continue funding projects.The effect, Mr Maraga said, will be suspension of the 50 mobile courts, a hitch on systems automation and suspension of efforts to clear backlog of cases.It will be in the taxpayers’ interest that any project that has gobbled public funds is not allowed to stall.However, poor funding should be no excuse for the Judiciary to lower service quality and roll back reforms lest it falls right into the hands of saboteurs.We hold that adequate number of magistrates and judges — not convoy of vehicles and courtrooms all over the place — is what Judiciary requires to discharge its mandate.The recent success of Rwanda’s Gachacha courts, where judges sat under community trees to decide high profile cases, may be a timely example to emulate.

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