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‘Judiciary’s infrastructure in need of facelift’

Written by on April 13, 2024

The office of the Judiciary has pleaded for more funds to address the “urgent” needs of its ageing infrastructure.

Minister of justice Yvonne Dausab delivered the office’s plea to the National Assembly while motivating its N$445-million budget allocation this week.

“To continue its mission of providing speedy and equitable justice, the judiciary requires adequate budgetary provisions. The judiciary’s infrastructure needs are pressing, and without significant investment, its capacity to serve will be hindered,” Dausab said.

The office said its audit reports and efforts for efficiency prove its commitment to “judiciously” utilise the resources allocated to it.

“The judiciary’s infrastructure, the heart of its operations, needs urgent attention to keep pace with the demands placed on it. This investment is not merely a matter of convenience, but a fundamental necessity to ensure that justice is accessible,” she said.

The minister asked for the support of the National Assembly to allocate the necessary resources to the Office of the Judiciary to continue its critical reforms and infrastructure maintenance.

She said there is a need for increased budget allocation to address the rising demand for judicial services and the renovation of the courts.

This budget increased with N$24 million from the N$421 million received during the previous financial year, which ended last month.

Between the last two financial years, the judiciary has brought in N$5,2 million in revenue through private telephone calls, bail amounts and photocopies.

During the opening of the legal year, chief justice Peter Shivute called for more funds to address instructional needs.

“While our budget allocations have been challenging, the need for continued investment in capital projects remains paramount,” he said.

Shivute said in the 2017/18 financial year, they received a budget allocation that allowed them to address some of their most pressing needs.

“However, the subsequent years have highlighted the growing demand for modernised court facilities, advanced technology and improved access to judicial services.

“The Office of the Judiciary recognises the urgent need for capital projects to not only refurbish and expand existing court infrastructure, but also integrate advanced technologies to streamline case management and court proceedings,” he said.

Shivute said these projects are not just about constructing buildings, but also about building the future of the judiciary.

“As we advocate for increased budget allocations, we envision capital projects that encompass the development of new court facilities in underserved regions, the expansion of our electronic case management systems and the enhancement of security measures to protect sensitive information and ensure the safety of our judicial staff and the public,” he said.

Annually, the government spends over N$1 billion on the courts, the budget books show.

“The sum of N$24 million will, in effect, solely cater for the implementation of a 5% salary increase for staff members,” Dausab said in parliament.

This approach could be detrimental to service delivery, the minister warned.

“The ongoing expansion of and rising demand for judicial services nationwide, without a concomitant increase in the operational budget, would inevitably lead to a deleterious effect on service delivery,” she said.

Despite efforts to improve efficiency across all courts, the judiciary is faced with heavy caseloads and not enough hands to assist, she said.

The minister said while judicial independence is paramount, the judiciary’s effectiveness is inextricably linked to the support it receives from other organs of the state.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court will receive N$25,7 million, the High Court’s chunk is N$99,7 million, while the lower courts will be allocated N$200 million.

Policy supervision, coordination and support services will be allocated N$119 million.

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