CJ Koome: We must vet judicial staff to curb corruption

Martha Koome

Chief Justice Martha Koome.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

Chief Justice (CJ) Martha Koome says there is need to vet judicial staff working under judges and in court registries to curb corruption in the judiciary.

Speaking during a High Court leadership conference in Mombasa, the CJ said some court assistants demand bribes, thereby tarnishing the image of the judges they (assistants) are supposed to assist.

"I urge all judges to exercise extra caution and balance in dealing with those who are supposed to assist them, I recognise the critical support provided by the staff but the sad reality is that some of those who are supposed to assist us are using their office for profit," Chief Justice Koome said.

The CJ said she has received disturbing complaints of staff abusing their offices and misusing information they have access to in the course of their employment and that those (staff) who have been in the same position and station for a long time are vulnerable.

"I have already directed the Chief Registrar to conduct a staff audit to identify such staff and I have put in place corrective measures to ensure regular rotation of all staff," the CJ said, while urging the High Court judges to ensure that the exercise is successful.

The CJ said that as supervisors of subordinate courts, High Court judges should set a good example by having strong principles and strict adherence to the code of conduct.

She also urged the High Court to expedite the implementation of recommendations from a corruption risk assessment contained in a report on the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission's systemic audit of the registry's operations, which was launched last month.

"This is about ensuring that every corner of our system is free from the grime of corruption and that every inch of our operation is spotless in terms of integrity," the CJ said.

The CJ said that as leaders of the Supreme Court, judges have a responsibility not only to dispense justice but also to promote the highest standards of integrity and accountability among themselves.

She was also concerned about the delays in the determination of cases, which she said in some cases exceeded three years.

The CJ said the law prescribes the period or time that must be taken to prepare decisions, so there is no reason why judges should not adhere to the timelines.

The CJ also said despite the harsh criticisms that judges in the country face in the course of their work, they are recognised globally for their exemplary service.

"Even though we are being beaten to a pulp here (in the country), we are doing well globally and regionally," the CJ told the judges.

Ms Koome also said that she had set up an inter-agency Judicial Retirement Benefits Taskforce to facilitate the enactment of the long-delayed Judicial Retirement Benefits Bill.

She said that the judiciary is using technology in its operations and that judges should be champions of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in their jurisdictions.

The CJ said they intend to roll out e-filing services across the country by February next year and that the services will be launched in Siaya, Kisumu and Homa Bay next week.

Justice Eric Ogola said they (judges) should meet regularly to assess their performance and look at areas where they can improve.

"In this way, as leaders, we will be able to maintain and strengthen the confidence of the people we serve because the sword ultimately rests on the sustained public confidence in our courts," Justice Ogola said.

Justice Ogola said her vision as the High Court was to clear the backlog of cases.

"We must continue to adopt strategies aimed at not only improving access to justice but also the speedy delivery of justice," Justice Ogola said.

Justice Ogola said the High Court has embarked on a review of the Registry Operations Manual with a view to standardising manual operations in all registries across the country.