THE Judicial Service Commission (JSC) lost 88 members of staff including 18 magistrates because of poor remuneration in 2021, a development Chief Justice Luke Malaba attributed to poor salaries.
Speaking yesterday while officially opened the 2022 legal year where he delivered the State of the Judiciary Address (SOJA), Chief Justice Malaba urged the Government to frequently review the salaries of members of the JSC to help stop the continued loss of manpower due to low salaries.
Malaba said courts failed to perform to the optimal level because of the Covid-19 induced national lockdowns that saw the downsizing of court operations.
“The government should constantly review the salaries of the workers so that they remain relevant to the prevailing economic situation. The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) witnessed a high staff turnover in the year under review because of low salaries.
“A total of 88 members of the judicial staff resigned in 2021, of which 18 were magistrates,” Malaba said.
“To stem the high turnover of professional, competent and skilled employees, an employer, whether public or private, must ensure that it has in place attractive and competitive conditions of service.
“It is no exaggeration to say that justice suffers even judicial officers are underpaid,” Malaba added.
He said the JSC experienced a myriad of challenges in 2021, including inadequate funding, and forced to rely on funding from development partners to bankroll its operations.
The Chief Justice said in terms of the Constitution, the Judiciary should retain its independence from other organs, adding that it is unhealthy for them to seek funding from outsiders because Treasury fails to disburse enough funding.
“On account of the comity expected from it due to the principle of separation of powers, the Judiciary ought not to be put in a situation in which it has to actively petition for funding from the Executive; nor should it be demanding the release of funds allocated to it, thereby risking compromising the said comity.
“The Judiciary is unable to actively fundraise. A Judiciary that knocks on several doors begging for funding, or that engages in commercial activities for the generation of income undermines the public’s perception of its ability to adjudicate on disputes impartially,” he said.
“It is hoped that Treasury will consider the implementation of the system of block release of adequate funds to the Judiciary from its appropriated budgetary funds to preempt the frequent visits to it by officers from the JSC pleading for money for its operational needs.”
He said the case backlogs increased in various courts, which prompted the JSC to implement digitisation of court operations.