A ROW has erupted between the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and some departments in the Justice ministry over the control of revenue generated by the courts.
This comes amid allegations that the Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku-led commission is splurging money on state-of-the-art vehicles despite failing to adequately fund the Attorney-General’s (AG) Office and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
The JSC recently bought Range Rovers for judges. A government official said that the JSC collects about US$150 000 per month from the courts through clerks of courts and masters of the High Court. The revenue includes fines, court fees and estate duty, among other sources.
Section 32(9) of the NPA Act specifies that the JSC is supposed to retain 40% of revenue, while allocating 30% to the NPA, 20% to the AG’s Office and 10% to the Justice ministry.
Before the NPA Act came into force in January this year, the JSC retained 80% of the funds while 20% was disbursed to the AG’s Office.
Officials in the Justice ministry told the Zimbabwe Independent that the JSC was still retaining 80% and disbursing 20%, in contravention of the new Act.
The officials also said the JSC was failing to disclose the amount it was collecting from the courts in what they said was a deliberate move to ensure the commission retains the money at the expense of other departments.
Section 32(9) of the NPA Act, which the officials cited, reads: “The Courts Administration Fund that was established under the Audit and Exchequer Act (Chapter 22:03) and saved under Section 93(3)(b) of the Public Finance Management Act (Chapter 22:19) (No 11 of 2009) shall continue in force subject (notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the constitution of that fund) to the following re-allocation of the public monies retained in it with effect from the fixed date: (a) forty per centum of the monies shall be allocated to the Judicial Service Commission and (b) thirty per centum of the monies shall be allocated to the Authority and (c) twenty per centum of the monies shall be allocated to the Attorney General’s Office; and (d) ten per centum of the monies shall be allocated to the Ministry responsible for the administration of this Act.”
A Justice ministry official said failure by the JSC to fairly distribute the funds to NPA was hampering its operations.
“Since January it is not known how much JSC has collected from the courts. Different departments have not received their allocation and efforts to get the exact figures of the amounts have been fruitless,” said the official.
“The money from the courts is useful as it complements that from government, hence it also helps these departments’ operations in various areas, for instance, buying furniture, stationery, fuel and servicing motor vehicles. Money from the fiscus is nowhere near enough.”
While answering to questions from the floor at an induction workshop held by the NPA last month permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Virginia Mabhiza, said her ministry did not know how much the JSC had collected.
She said the ministry had also not received its allocation.
Contacted for comment, NPA corporate affairs manager Allen Chifokoyo said his organisation was engaging the JSC over the issue.
“The NPA Act Section 32(9) has not been complied with. The money we receive from the JSC is not the right amount under the provision. We are engaging JSC to comply with the Act,” Chifokoyo said.
Last week Chidyausiku, while addressing the Southern African Chief Justices’ Forum in Victoria Falls, thanked Treasury for permitting the JSC to retain court fees and other court funds. He said the move had greatly improved justice delivery and the welfare of judicial officers.
He said some judges were now driving Range Rovers except for 16 who were scheduled to get their allocation by December this year. Chidyausiku also said the money was used to revive the magisterial circuit courts system that had been closed due to lack of funding.
Permanent secretary in the ministry of Justice, Virginia Mabhiza, said her ministry had not been receiving its 10% share of the court administration fund. “We have not receiving anything since January. It is Treasury’s responsibility to see to it that the money is distributed according to the law,” Manhiza said.