Use data for apt administration of justice

Monday, August 31st, 2020 00:00 |
Justice. Photo/Courtesy

Nicholas Simani and Fredrick Ombwori 

Effective citizen engagement in decision making requires citizens to be well informed, including by having access to accurate information.  

The Constitution of Kenya Article 35 1(a), and (3) provides that every citizen has the right of access to information held by the State and the State shall publish and publicise any important information affecting the nation.  Article 159 2 (b) further employs that “Justice shall not be delayed”. 

In order to actualise these constitutional provisions, the Judiciary has been building a foundation for evidence-based or data driven decision making for its strategic and administrative, non-judicial processes. 

Reliable data is simply information, numbers, measurements and observations gathered and documented in an objectively verifiable way that can inform decision making. Governments use data for effective governance. 

The Judiciary therefore in gathering data on its various services and processes, is using a tried and tested way, to inform better service delivery.

Accurate data is a critical leadership and management tool as it informs decision making for the best utilisation of financial and other resources for effectiveness in service delivery.  

In the last eight years, the Judiciary has been collecting and analysing data to develop policies, strengthen existing systems to improve efficiency, accountability and transparency in service delivery.

Critical data that the Judiciary now collects and analyses, is the data is Dairy Court Returns.

These returns capture data on the date the case is registered; case number; case type; name of Judge or judicial officer handling the case; the reason why the case is up in court that day; outcome of the case; number of witnesses heard; adjournments and reasons for adjournment; legal representation if any among other parametres. 

This data formed the basis of an in-house developed case management system as it entrenched standardised data capture across the courts.

Economists and Statisticians in the Judiciary, analyse this data and use it to prepare various reports such as the Annual State of Judiciary and Administration of Justice Report (SOJAR), the Performance Management and Measurement Understanding (PMMU) Report, individual Judges and judicial officers performance Reports, and other statistical supplements as well as special reports in response to internal and external requests.

The Judiciary also undertakes court user and employee satisfaction surveys regularly which capture court users and employees’ perceptions on delivery of justice and services.

These survey reports inform decisions on improvement of work environment, access to justice, resource allocation to courts, and equitable distribution of human resources.

These reports are available for public information, inspection and debate as necessary as they contribute to improved transparency of justice systems.

Further, as a taxpayer funded institution, the Judiciary must be accountable to the public in its use of its annual budget. 

As the needs and wants of an institution often outstrip resources available, data driven decision making ensures objective, verifiable, equitable use of limited resources. 

Accordingly, the Judiciary Service Commission (JSC) as a matter of policy, uses caseload data in making policy directions such as Sustaining Judiciary Transformation (SJT) framework and Strategic Plan (2019-2023).  

It also uses the data in identifying and establishing new courts, setting up mobile courts and circuits in the country.

It further helps in developing strategies in addressing challenges such as reduction of case backlog especially over 5 years, and objective decisions on recruitment and promotion of judges, judicial officers and staff. 

The Judiciary received support from the World Bank through the Judicial Performance Improvement Project (JPIP) to increase its capacity to entrench data collection & analysis. 

Court users such as litigants, advocates, accused persons expect timely, quality and effective services from the courts.

With reliable data, the Judiciary is able to ensure that financial and human resources are applied in the way best suited to ensure it discharges its mandate in the most transparent, effective and inefficient manner and meet accountability standards expected by the public. — Simani – Communication Consultant JPIP Ombwori – Assistant Director - DPOP

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