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Treasury in U-turn over Sh3bn court budget cuts

David Maraga
Chief Justice David Maraga. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Treasury has made an about-turn and cut the Judiciary’s budget by Sh2.8 billion through a supplementary budget, setting the stage for a fresh confrontation with Chief Justice David Maraga.

On Tuesday, the Treasury sought MPs approval to increase spending by 2.8 percent to Sh3.13 trillion in its 2019/20 budget in a review that saw cuts in the recurrent expenditure. It chopped Sh1.49 billion meant for the dispensation of justice and another Sh1.37 billion meant for providing equitable access to expeditious delivery of judgments.

The Sh2.95 billion slash in the Judiciary’s budget is likely to spark off a fresh round of bitter exchanges between the justice system and the Executive.

Justice Maraga had last month complained that the Treasury was starving the Judiciary of funds, a move that threatened to cripple court operations. This was then followed by a memo to staff indicating that the Treasury had restored the Judiciary’s budget.

The cuts on recurrent expenditure follow an order from the Treasury for ministries to slash budgets for lavish travel, advertising and trainings, which the State said were examples of wasteful spending. Justice Maraga said some courts had stopped working and a drive to speed up corruption cases was on hold.

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“A number of critical processes in the courts and the Judiciary will be severely crippled,” he said at a news conference.

“Some of the incidents that we encounter are deliberate attempts to undermine the Judiciary ... I am not serving at the pleasure of a few people in the Executive who are bent on subjugating the Judiciary,” he said.

The Judiciary was allocated Sh18.9 billion for the fiscal year starting in July, well below its request for 33.3 billion.

The Judiciary said money for salaries remained the same, but the development and recurrent expenditure budget had been halved. The Sh2.8 billion cut translates to a 14.8 percent reduction of the budget, which is a breach of budget law that allows the Treasury to vary expenditure by a maximum of 10 percent through supplementary budgets.

Justice Maraga said a plan to automate some proceedings in special new anti-corruption courts in Nairobi were now on hold, and that judges should not be blamed if corruption trials were derailed. Circuit courts of appeal in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret and Nyeri had been suspended and 53 mobile courts working in remote areas had also stopped working owing to lack of money for vehicles and fuel.

“Let us put our feet down for once. Let us not be a committee that made institutions such as the Judiciary weaker. Judiciary is losing and we are not going to do our work because our oversight money has been reduced to zero,” Mark Nyamita, a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committee (BAC)—which is reviewing the supplementary budget.

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