The Public Urged to Seek Information for better Service Delivery
The public has been urged to be more vigilant and demand for services from the responsible units in the Judiciary given that this is one of the Public services that the population ought to benefit from. Further they were asked to seek information which is necessary to empower them in their demand for services.
This came up during the National Dialogue aimed at Supporting the Judicial Service Commission to Improve Service Delivery. It was co organized by The Public Interest Law Clinic in the School of Law and Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU).
The activity was aimed at obtaining the academic and youth perspective on improving public service delivery in JSC, to sensitize youth in school on judicial corruption and where to report issues of judicial misconduct, and attain stakeholders’ recommendations on improving service delivery in the JSC.
The panelists that were moderated by Tegullle Gawaya included Farida Semyano from Judicial Service Commission, Byangwa Angella from RwenzoriAnti-Corruption Coalition, Kiiza Eron, a legal officer and Tadeo Asiimwe an Inspector of Courts.
The dialogue that attracted participation from the Academia, students and the general public who are court users discussed a number of issues with a view of supporting and strengthening the Judicial Service commission in improving public service delivery.
In the dialogue it was noted that the terms and conditions of judicial officers were inadequate and it was therefore necessary that the responsible units consider a review of these conditions for the better. It was also pointed out that some of the judicial officers lacked the requisite competence to handle the tasks before them and in one of the recommendations, it was suggested that the Judicial Service Commission should not hire fresh graduates into such positions of responsibility before they gain experience in the world of work.
The other issues raised about the conduct of the judicial officers included laziness, late coming, and substandard work. It was explained that the Judicial Studies Institute normally organizes trainings for the staff and that in the event that such concerns are observed by the public, they should be raised for remedial action through the orientation and refresher trainings, in addition to the disciplinary actions that are faced by the errant officers.
It was further explained that there is continuous assessment of judicial officers and targets are set with each Grade one magistrates for instance, required to handle and report a minimum of thirty cases a month. The effort to improve the service saw the removal of the position of the Grade II magistrates, an area where a lot of corruption has been reported. Additionally the bailiffs were pointed out as proponents of corruption, when they charge exorbitant fees in connivance with legal officers. The public was asked to report such cases and given the fact that their licenses are renewed annually, they can be held accountable at this level.
Another issue raised concerns the request for the litigants to pay for stationery and other services in the court. It was explained that the Judiciary is facilitated monthly for needs like stationery and toner and therefore they are not expected to demand anything from the public.
In the dialogue it was pointed out that the very units that are expected to champion the fight against corruption are the ones condoning it. However the public was advised to report the incidences as they occur noting that not all the civil service is corrupt. It was explained that there are a number of organizations working in this area including the Inspectorate of Government, Uganda Human Rights Commission, civil society organizations, the leadership at each district and the sub county levels as well as the Police where people can channel their complaints.
The other area of concern from the court users was the way judicial officers are recruited, with a view that because they handle sensitive issues, the processes should be open. This arose out of the feeling from the public that there is a lot of patronage among the senior judicial officers because of the political support in the recruitment process.
Public sensitization and mobilization was emphasized as a means of creating awareness among the public about the operations of the judiciary more so to understand the fees expected of them and where to pay. It was explained that the information concerning payable rates is public information and that all cashiers at the courts were asked to display the information, although some of them are still evasive.
There was a concern on the bureaucracies and delays in accessing justice, coupled with political influence in the system. The question as to whether the government respects the decisions made by the court arose.