The Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission, Justice Benjamin Kabiito has proposed that government reviews the current human resource composition of Uganda’s judicial system in order to meet the overwhelming needs of the population.
Justice Kabiito said that the Commission is constrained by a footprint that is limited to Kampala which has resulted into inefficiency and delays in delivery of justice.
“We have a very lean judiciary with a high case load which could explain why we have accumulated case backlog. We need to agree on an optimum number of court officers to run on account of our 40 million population,” Justice Kabiito told journalists during a news conference at Uganda Media Centre on Wednesday.
In comparison with countries like Kenya and Ghana which have a lesser population, he noted that Uganda’s judicial staff composition is far low.
Uganda has 11 Justices of the Supreme Court, 15 at the Court of Appeal and 50 High Court Judges compared to Kenya’s 5 (Supreme Court), 35 (Court of Appeal) and 150 (High Court).
Ghana on the other hand has 15 officers at Supreme Court, 27 at the Court of Appeal and 108 in the High Court.
Commenting on recent proposals to extend the retirement age for judicial officers, the Justice said that the challenge we have is that we have 5,000 graduates of law every year, wondering where are we going to put all these lawyers if we are going to extend the retirement age?
“We must build capacity to absolve the lawyers that are coming through and also give them terms and conditions that will attract them,” he said.
“Out of the staff establishment of 117, the Commission presently has 56 staff. In the Directorate of Education, out of 11 staff, we only have 2 officers. There are only 5 officers instead of the 20 required in the Research Planning and Investigation Directorate.”
The human resource shortage, he said, has been facilitated by terms and conditions of service that are not commensurate enough to attract or retain competent officers, given their hectic work.
He added that majority of the members to the Commission serve on a part time basis and can’t fully and effectively discharge their duties since some of the meetings are held urgently and require quorum.
At the very apex of the judicial challenges is funding.
For the last three financial years, the Judicial Service Commission was allocated Shs3.3bn annually.
In the current 2017/18 financial year, government has increased the appropriation by Shs5bn to Shs8.3bn but Justice Kabiito says this is still insufficient.
“We require an additional Shs4bn to establish regional offices across the country. Without a deterrent system, impunity will reign and erosion of public confidence and mob justice, murders from land disputes,” he noted.