Opinion

Slashing Judiciary budget at the height of graft war is, itself, sleaze

Slashing Judiciary budget at the height of graft war is, itself, sleaze
  • Reducing the budget for the Judiciary will lead to the return of corrupt magistrates and judges, and it is not where we want to return.
  • It does not augur well for the country if the three arms of government contradict and undermine each other’s work.

The government needs to listen to itself speak sometimes.

It is the only way it can avoid contradiction and gain respect.

For instance, how does the government that keeps saying it is at war with corruption turn around and cut the budget for the Judiciary?

Confidence within the Justice department is the weapon Kenya needs to win the war on corruption. The fight against it cannot be waged Maji Maji Rebellion style.

Even if we used holy water in the war, it won’t rid the country of corruption.

If anything, the Judiciary needs more funding to help it tackle the corruption menace once and for all.

Rightly or wrongly, the attack on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) was followed by the budget cuts to the Judiciary.

GOING DIGITAL

The government challenges the increase in the number of judges required desperately in the Judiciary and then follows it up by suggesting budget cuts to the main institution that is required to be at the front and centre of corruption fight. Why now?

These moves do not bode well for the government. If they are not careful, the concerned officials stand accused of helping corruption to fight back.

Pulling the rug under the feet of the justice system will leave it further exposed to cartels — as if the bribery culture in the Judiciary is not bad enough, as it is!

The country was told that the justice system would go digital in September as part of the plans to help tackle graft. It was a welcome move and long overdue.

Our courts have been working in what has now become primitive ways.

GOVT RENEGES ON PLEDGE

The old-fashioned ways of writing up cases by the judges and using paper files has contributed greatly to corruption within the corridors of justice.

Paper files ‘walk’ (only in Kenya!) and judgments mysteriously disappear or get altered in favour of the highest financial influencer.

Digitisation of the courts would have brought our justice system in line with the best in the world.

Cutting funding for such a great scheme is bound to have serious implications on how justice is dispensed.

It is pointless to share digitisation plans with the public if the government then kills the idea in one fell swoop. Was there any serious thought put into it or was it just a PR exercise?

If the announcement was for PR purposes, then it means our government was not serious at all from the beginning in offering support to the courts.

BUYING JUSTICE

People’s lives hang on the activities of the courts. An honourable and effective justice system will be able to deliver on its mandate, but it cannot function on a shoe-string budget.

Ironically, Parliament, which has always dwarfed the Judiciary with its remuneration, has always been allowed higher pay when, frankly, they do not deserve it as much as the judges and magistrates, who have a much more crucial role — of upholding the rule of law.

The Judges and Magistrates Board did a superb job in ridding the Judiciary of corrupt justice officials.

Reducing the budget for the Judiciary will lead to the return of corrupt magistrates and judges, and it is not where we want to return.

Cutting the budget for the Judiciary will have serious implications on the work of the courts.

Most importantly, it has the potential of becoming a national security matter, much more now as we are fighting terrorism within and without our borders.

“Why have a lawyer when you can buy a judge” is a phrase that is ‘Made in Kenya’ because of the level of corruption in our courts.

Why should a terror suspect not try his luck in buying justice despite killing hundreds of our fellow citizens?

COMMITMENT

It might help if the government studied the impact the Sicilian Mafia had on the justice system in Italy in the 19th Century before they embark on cutting budgets for the Judiciary.

I’m not a harbinger of doom, but I have this feeling that the centre of government is not holding. Media are awash with corruption reports.

That the scourge is not going away and the strategies to fight it are not watertight means we have not got serious enough in wanting to deal with it.

Subjecting the Judiciary to budget cuts amid runaway graft is not only irresponsible, but shows lack of seriousness by the government in tackling the problem.

LEGACY

Forget the ‘Big Four Agenda’. If President Uhuru Kenyatta wants to leave a real legacy, then let it be a corruption-free Kenya.

This can be achieved by concerted efforts of Parliament, Judiciary and the Executive. They need to read from the same script, speak in one voice and support one another on corruption.

It does not augur well for the country if the three arms of government contradict and undermine each other’s work. The centre of government must find a way to stay tight, honest and relevant on important issues.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. @kdiguyo