The state of affairs at the Judiciary in the recent past has significantly improved tremendously after months of chaos and scandals, members of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament said on Friday.
The Legislators were receiving Judiciary’s Budget Framework Paper for FY 2020/21 to FY 2024/25, which was presented by the Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Judiciary, Mr Pius Bigirimana.
“For the first time in very many years, we are quite impressed with the reports from the Judiciary, said the Committee Chairperson, Mr Jacob Oboth Oboth.
“So far this is the best presentation we have received, and I’d like to really commend the Judiciary.”
The remarks come against the backdrop of corruption scandals that rocked the judiciary.
Bigirimana was brought on board last year to restore sanity as the then accountant failed for provide accountability for billions of shillings of taxpayers’ money.
Several MPs re-echoed the Chairperson’s views, adding that Judiciary seems to be on the right course and therefore deserves the support of Parliament to move forward.
The MPs also said they knew PS Bigirimana as a performer, adding that they had full confidence in him.
Earlier, Mr Bigirimana had presented Judiciary’s key performance areas, challenges, as well as the institution’s priorities for the next five years.
“We want to strike a new relationship with the Parliament of Uganda based on the three principles of trust, confidence and respect,” said Mr Bigirimana, adding that the Judiciary would fully cooperate with Parliament and furnish it with all the information it requires to support its plea for adequate funding.
“Mr Chairman, I will return here with a paper to demonstrate how costly it is not to fund the Judiciary. There are serious economic, social and political implications arising out of the under-funding of the Courts and you cannot just ignore this.”
He, for instance, said the Judiciary spends sh11.6 billion every year on renting court premises across the country.
“Most of our so-called court premises are rented and many, especially in the countryside are in a sorry state. Some Courts even lack proper toilet facilities,” said Mr Bigirimana.
On Judiciary’s priorities, Mr Bigirimana said the Judiciary needed shs26.5 billion for vehicles for Judicial Officers; recruitment of Judicial and non Judicial Officers to operationalize the gazetted courts (shs 13.6 billion); construction of the Appellate courts (shs10 billion); and establishment and operationalisation of ECCMIS (shs6.5 billion), among others.
“This is the best report ever and I would like to congratulate the Judiciary,” said MP Sam Bitangaro.
On the issue of the pending Administration of the Judiciary Bill, MP Oboth Oboth said his Committee submitted the Bill to the Committee of The House for consideration. “All went well and we completed the work without a minority report,” he said. “
“I think what still appears like the sticky issue is the proposal that judges should retire with 100% salaries. My view is that the Judiciary should come back to us with an alternative proposal. I think this proposal should benefit all judicial officers, not just judges, and most people would quickly pass this law if you propose, say 50% pay for the retirees.”
Some MPs said they still hear complaints around management of bail money, time taken to dispose of cases, case backlog, incidents of corruption, and quality assurance, among others.
“Judicial Officers take long to handle disputes. Practitioners know that cases take years to get completed. There is public outcry about delay of justice and you need to do something about it,” said the Bugweri County MP, Abdu Katuntu.
“What happened to the proposal to have temporary Judicial Officers engaged to specifically handle case backlog? We need to handle such issues for the Courts to regain public confidence,” added MP Katuntu.
PS Bigirimana, who was escorted to Parliament by senior administration managers and Registrars, said he would quickly send a written response to some of the issues raised.