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Budget cuts hit Kenya’s judiciary – but there’s no ‘global funding target’

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  • After the Kenyan budget provided “inadequate” funds to the judiciary, chief justice David Maraga said judiciaries “all over the world” received “about 2.5%” of national budgets.

  • Experts told us there was no global standard for funding the justice system.

  • The UN only recommends that member states provide adequate funds to the judiciary, how much is a political decision.

Kenya’s chief justice David Maraga cut an unhappy figure in a recent television interview. The funding of the country’s justice system, he said on NTV, was “grossly inadequate”, “drastic” and “shocking”.

The budget set aside only KSh50 million (about US$500,000) to fund needs such as repairs, new office space and digitisation, he said in July 2018. The total allocation to the judiciary was 0.57% of the country’s 2018/19 budget for the year.

“All over the world, the judiciary is given at least about 2.5% of the national budget,” Maraga said. He also said 2.5% was “the recommended global percentage”.

Justice funding is falling

Africa Check contacted the judiciary for the source of Maraga’s claim. A spokesperson, Catherine Wambui, said they would confirm its origin, but they haven’t responded yet. (Note: We will update this report with their response.)

The 2.5% figure is also mentioned in the judiciary’s 2016/17 annual report, where it is described as the “internationally recommended” ratio. The Kenya arm of campaign group International Commission of Jurists further cited this figure. A programme manager, Theresa Mutua, promised to share their source with Africa Check. We will update this report when they do.

The judiciary’s share of the national budget has fallen from 1.1% in 2014/15 to less than 0.6% in 2018/19, figures from the treasury show.

Kenya’s judiciary budget as share of national budget
YearJudiciary budget (KSh Billion)National budget (KSh Billion)Share

Sources: National Treasury 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 Budget Speeches and Recurrent and Development Estimates for Judiciary in 2018, 2017,  2016, 2015 and 2014 Appropriations Acts.

We found a reference to a judicial funding threshold in a 2008 United Nations report. In it, a high-ranking official argued that the Democratic Republic of Congo’s judiciary needed more funds to tackle human rights violations.

Leandro Despouy, at the time the UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, argued that “the budget of the judicial system usually accounts for between 2 and 6% of national budgets”.

Africa Check contacted the special rapporteur’s office to check if there were a current global target for judiciary funding.

“There are no clear internationally accepted standards in relation to the funding for the judiciary,” Stefano Sensi, a human rights officer with the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, said.

Judiciary funding is ‘a political decision’

Kenya's national treasury building is pictured in Nairobi in June 2018. Photo: AFP
Kenya's national treasury building is pictured in Nairobi in June 2018. Photo: AFP

Two other analysts working with international organisations confirmed that there wasn’t a globally accepted share of national funds that should go to a country’s justice system.

“As far as we are aware, [there is] no international standard in relation to the percentage of the national budget which needs to be allocated to the judiciary to ensure its proper functioning,” Dr Karen Brewer, the secretary-general of the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association, told Africa Check.

Giuliana Palumbo, an analyst who has researched economics and judicial performance for the OECD, told us there “is no recommended budgetary allocation for the judiciary, which is a political decision within the government’s discretion”. The OECD is the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, a global forum with 36 member countries.

Palumbo also works with the Bank of Italy. She added that while the European Union might have data on a judiciary’s share of a national budget, these were not global recommendations.

“International comparisons in this field are often too complicated given the broad differences among the systems,” she said.

Each country to provide ‘adequate resources’

Sensi said the basic UN principles on the judiciary only stated that each member state should “provide adequate resources” for its judiciary to carry out its work.

Brewer said Commonwealth countries – Kenya is one – set their own funding for the judiciary. “Some countries do allocate a percentage in the constitution but many do not.”

Her association did support strong funding of judiciaries, she added.

Conclusion: There’s no global recommendation on funding a country's judiciary

Frustrated with continued funding cuts, Kenya’s chief justice David Maraga argued that “all over the world” judiciaries received “about 2.5%” of national budgets.

Experts told Africa Check that while more funds would be desirable, there was no globally recommended target for judicial funding.

Each country determined the share of national funds that went to its judiciary, they said. Comparing these allocations would be difficult as there were many differences in national judicial systems.

Edited by Lee Mwiti

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