Judge moans over dwindling budget

Judge moans over dwindling budget

MASERU – Acting Chief Justice (ACJ) ’Maseforo Mahase on Monday bemoaned the dwindling budget allocated to the judiciary every year.
Justice Mahase made these remarks during the official opening of the High Court in Maseru.

She said funds allocated to the judiciary have been dwindling every year and had now become so inadequate that “it is a miracle that the judiciary is still functioning”.

“The budget allocation for the judiciary, especially the High Court, and all subordinate courts, namely the magistracy, the judicial commissioners courts . . . is now so embarrassingly insufficient for the proper functioning of the courts,” she said.

Justice Mahase said the challenges were common to all courts regardless of their location.
For instance, in the financial year 2018/2019, the budget allocation for the entire judiciary in Lesotho, the Court of Appeal excluded, was M102 447 499.

Yet again, the budget ceiling for the financial year 2019/2020 was M99 546 049.
“This was said to cover salaries and operating costs only,” Justice Mahase said.
She said she has been reliably informed by the appropriate finance officers and the registrars of the High Court that the budget for the forthcoming financial year 2020/2021, the budget allocated for the entire Judiciary of Lesotho will cover salaries and operating costs only.

Lesotho has about 101 lower courts most of which are situated in the remote, inaccessible or hard to reach areas.
Currently, the courts are using only three official vehicles which are based in the three magisterial regions.
But the magistrates are not able to effectively manage these vehicles on a daily basis having to share them with other lowest courts under their watch is also a miracle.

ACJ Mahase said the Court of Appeal is the highest court which sits twice a year in April and October.
She said the President of this court is a Mosotho.
Otherwise, the other Justices of this court are non-Basotho who are recruited outside Lesotho, from countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

“The Lesotho Judiciary pays all the travel, accommodation, motor vehicle and allowances for each one of them,” ACJ Mahase said.
She said its budget far exceeds that of the combined High Court but for unexplained reasons, this is always adequately funded.
She said this is however important for that court to function uninterrupted.

ACJ Mahase further said in the last two sessions of the Appeal Court, the total budget allocated for the sitting of was M6 724 056.52.
She said morale of the staff in the judiciary was low mostly because of these financial constraints.
In some instances, she said, courts have no basic essential resources or tools of trade such as stationery.

ACJ Mahase said lack of resources due to financial constraints makes it impossible for these lower courts to serve the public at their optimal ability.
“This in turn results in the loss of confidence in the courts by members of the public,” she said.
She said the High Court is not spared from this misery.
She said there are times when lawyers and the members of public have to bring their own files so that they could be served.

Staff reporter

 

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