Address By Hon. Justice Bart M. Katureebe, Chief Justice Of Uganda At The Launch Of The Cepil Report On The Judiciary Scorecard 2018 Held At Serena Kampala Hotel On 28th March, 2018
The Hon. The Deputy Chief Justice
The Hon. The Principal Judge
The Hon. Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs
The Hon. Attorney General
The Justices and Judges of the Courts of Judicature
Your Excellency the Ambassadors
Heads of the Constitutional Commissions
Heads of JLOS Institutions
The Chief Registrar
The Secretary to the Judiciary
The President Uganda Law Society
Members of the Bar
Ladies and Gentlemen.
It gives me great pleasure to be with you all here at the launch of the Judiciary Performance Scorecard Project, an initiative by the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL). As you may be aware, this initiative is of critical significance towards strengthening of the independence, efficiency and effectiveness of the Judiciary in Uganda. I have had the benefit of reading the findings of the Scorecard report and I am convinced that this initiative will greatly contribute towards the realization of a judicial system that is desired by the people of Uganda.
The Judiciary is instrumental in the promotion of the rule of law, democracy and good governance. We do this through the effective execution of our mandate in accordance with Article 126 (1) of the Constitution –
“Judicial power is derived from the people and shall be exercised by the courts established under this Constitution in the name of the people and in conformity with law and with the values, norms and aspirations of the people”
The administration of justice therefore has to be sensitive to the needs of the people we serve. It has to be executed with independence, impartiality, transparency and accountability, among other cherished values. By setting up and implementing judicial performance benchmarks, this initiative sets out to interrogate how well the Judiciary executes its mandate. The result of such an exercise, if well done, will contribute to an overall improvement in the administration of justice in Uganda.
However, an assessment such as this has to be done with hindsight. One must take into consideration the circumstances under which the Judiciary operates if the results are to be in tandem with reality. You must all be alive to the prevailing challenges that the Judiciary is grappling with that significantly affect its functionality, efficiency and effectiveness. To mention but a few, the major challenges include the limited capacity by the Judiciary to adequately deliver judicial services owing to insufficient financial and human resources. The others are poor working methods owing to lack of automation and poor attitudes, inappropriate court infrastructure, corruption (real and perceived), and generally low public confidence in the judicial system.
In 2015, I had occasion to launch the State of the Judiciary Report published by this same organization (CEPIL) which constituted an in-depth study of the state of the Judiciary in Uganda as at the time. The report, among others, clearly outlined the prevailing challenges that affect functionality and independent operations of the Judiciary. The report indicated that some of the challenges were due to external factors while the others were due to internal weaknesses.
I am made to understand that this Scorecard project is meant to address the internal weaknesses of the Judiciary; things that we can work on within the prevailing circumstances as we pursue and await the intervention of the other responsible organs that are obligated to support the administration of justice. I find this a welcome initiative.
I need to point out that as the Judiciary, we are greatly concerned about our performance, efficiency and effectiveness of our court processes. As such, we have tirelessly worked towards continuous improvement and have adopted a number of reforms and measures to improve judicial performance. I will mention a few:
We are in the process of completing the establishment of the Judiciary Performance Enhancement Tool. The tool is designed to adopt a 360-degree evaluation approach and it is based on performance standards and measures pegged on accessibility, timeliness, staff quality and levels of integrity. It also employs a weighting system for each category of judicial work. Judicial officers are meant to achieve specific targets within a year. Annual targets are already in place for each court level in the case of appellate courts and each Judge or Judicial Officer in the case of trial courts. This system is expected to increase performance levels, facilitate performance monitoring and evaluation, and to inform the Judiciary Reward Policy. The consultant is expected to make the final deliverable by end of April, 2018.
The Judiciary has continued to expose our officers to essential training to improve their knowledge and skills for better performance. We have strengthened the capacity of the Judicial Training Institute to be able to deliver the required knowledge and skills improvement. We realize that effective training is an essential component of performance improvement and change management. Judicial officers have also been provided with Bench Books in the areas of Civil Justice, Criminal Justice and Gender. These bench books act as quick and effective reference materials for judicial officers.
The Judiciary has set out to improve court processes through automation and strengthening of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Automation of the court processes is expected to improve case management, expedite disposal of cases and ease public access to the courts. It is also meant to rid the court process of opportunistic corruption that is usually a result of human contact that is characteristic of the manual system we currently run. With the support of UNICEF, the Judiciary already has in place an audio visual link technology to support the handling of cases especially involving children of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) to protect child victims and witnesses from physical confrontation with the offenders.
We also have in place a 5-year ICT Strategic Plan which is meant to guide the process of automation in the Judiciary. Under the Plan, the Judiciary is in the process of establishing e-filing and a robust automated case management system that will fundamentally transform the operations of the Judiciary. The process is currently at procurement level.
We have also used ADR to achieve simpler and faster resolution of disputes. This mechanism has greatly assisted our efforts towards backlog reduction.
The Judiciary has prioritized the fight against corruption and upholding of integrity within the Judiciary. We have opened up free-toll lines where errant staff can be reported and investigated. We have strengthened the Inspectorate of Courts to improve the monitoring of judiciary staff in the course of performance of their duties. The Inspectorate is currently headed by a Justice of the Supreme Court with a number of Registrars.
There are a number of other on-going measures being implemented by the Judiciary. The Judiciary Score Card Initiative Report for 2018 is expected to inform our continued efforts towards better delivery of the administration of justice. Through this tool, the Judiciary will be enabled to measure its level of accountability and responsiveness towards the people we serve. It is of utmost importance that we are aware of our rating before the users of our services so that we can identify and fill the gaps.
Let me therefore take this opportunity to appreciate the Centre for Public Interest Law for this initiative. I also thank all those who have participated in this activity at different levels.
I now have the honor and privilege to officially launch the Judiciary Performance Scorecard Project and the 2018 Scorecard Report.
I thank you for listening to me.
Bart M. Katureebe