Give the Judiciary More autonomy and Money – Professor Balunywa

I was invited by the judiciary to talk to them about how the judiciary can be made more efficient as part of reinventing government. My view of a court was somewhere you went when you did something wrong and for that reason, I was always scared of judges since they met out punishment that takes people to jail. However, this time, my appearance before these learned people was not anything to do with that, rather it was how to improve the way they dispense justice; possibly including meting out punishments.

judgesThe Principal Judge, who presided over the discussions pointed out something I had never thought about and yet it’s so crucial. He said, “Whenever there are discussions on transformation, nobody talks about the judiciary, the role of courts is rarely recognized.” The discussion was that in the state of the nation addresses, that are made periodically, the judiciary is rarely mentioned. This is despite the fact that disagreement in society is inevitable and it is the courts that help society to address these disagreements.

I also learnt that Uganda’s Anti-Corruption Division has been acclaimed to be one of the best performing in Africa and they are said to be presently housed in dingy premises.
In my address to these learned officers, I informed them that the business organization had become the most important organization in society because not only did it give incomes to the owners and employees, hence their livelihood, but also paid the taxes that enabled government to function. I said further that, reinventing government meant making government work based on the principles of private sector.

In the private sector, you have to make profits to survive. If you don’t make profits in the long run, you close. However, I cautioned the learned friends that while there was the desire to improve the management of government, the fact that government lived off tax payer’s money, meant the values espoused by the private sector were different from those of government. Government taxes people and these people have interest in how the money is used. Of course it is never used the way every tax payer would want to but there is need for transparency, participation and accountability when using the money. Because of this, government must, out of necessity, be a bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is a system that slows down the way things are done because it is a set of rules and regulations that ensures the values of government. It creates checks and balances in the way government affairs are managed. This breeds inefficiency. It slows down systems and at times ends in poor service delivery.
To reform government, we need to make it run like the private sector. It involves breaking down the bureaucracy but without losing insight of the essence of government. It involves working more efficiently. This is being able to adopt modern technologies and using the resources that you have in the most efficient manner. It involves taking more effective decisions. I explained to the learned friends that “efficiency is doing the thing right while effectiveness is doing the right thing”. However well you do something wrong, it will not lead to achievement of goals. While the private sector pursues profits, government can not pursue profits but it should have value for money. Profits is a measure of efficiency. It depends on how the input is managed. Those who do it well make more profits. In government therefore, the issue is not the profit, but the input output relationship is of relevance. When we spend money, we should get value for it. Fortunately, the Auditor General in recent years had also initiated value for money audits.
Reinventing government also requires management training for the government officers. The MBA is acknowledged worldwide as the basic management training one needs to have to be a reasonably good manager. At one stage, this was almost made a requirement for public servants. The MBA schools you into how to efficiently and effectively manage institutions, it enable you to understand the competitive environment you operate in and gives you knowledge on how to manage a modern organization. Reinventing government also involves making government officers think and act strategically. It gives them the ability to look at the future and manage the future from the present.
Turning specifically to the judiciary, my feeling was, 80% of the Ugandans that live in rural areas do not know the law and they don’t even know what to do with it. Besides, and this was ably pointed out by the Principal Judge, the law we administer in Uganda, is the English common law, completely foreign to our environment. My view therefore is the reformed judiciary should start with: who are the customers of the judiciary, what kind of laws are applicable to them? How best can justice be administered in light of this?

Besides this, the judiciary needs to adopt modern technologies, which I gather its already doing, have judicial officers trained in leadership and management. Give the judiciary more autonomy and of course more funds.In the discussion, it was noted that while the Anti-Corruption Division of the judiciary was performing so well, government had as of now failed to accept a building enabled by the World Bank that could enable the division have a decent home.

After the discussions, it was felt that there was a need for additional training in leadership to contribute to the reinventing of the judiciary. I could not agree with the learned people more.

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