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Makueni court beats inefficiency with solar

Nicholas Simani @PeopleDailyKe

Located in the sunny county of Makueni, Kilungu Law Courts has had everything going for it apart from reliable electricity. Frequent power outages have been the thorn in the flesh of local judicial officers

for years causing delays in delivery of services. Court rooms, registries, offices and cells were frequently plunged into darkness. The court was also forced to outsource typing services at a cyber café in the nearest market as litigants experienced delays in the processing of fines and refunds owing to lack of access to online banking services.

This made the court seem to be inefficient in providing services to the people. People would travel as far as 60km and go back in the evening without receiving services because of power interruption.

The frustrations which made the court highly inefficient weighed not just on the public but judicial staff as well. But then, the Court Users Committee (CUC) of Kilungu Law Court stepped in.

Armed with a Sh165,000 grant from the World Bank’s Judicial Performance Improvement Project (JPIP), Kilungu CUC installed 250W solar panels to the facility and voila, the court’s problems all but vanished. Head of Station, senior resident magistrate Patrick Wambugu says since the solar panels were installed, the court has been operating optimally.

“There is no backlog of cases; the Daily Court Returns Template (DCRT) are filled on a daily basis and submitted as required on or before the due date; payment vouchers that used to take one month to prepare are done promptly and reconciliation and surrender of revenue is done daily,” he says.

This has created more time for judicial officers and staff to engage in other official duties. Litigants are also getting their statements photocopied at the station and darkness in the chambers and cells obliterated.

A judicial staff at Kilungu indicated that now, there is timely management of station communication through the internet services. “We are able to access the station email anytime and correspondences are responded to without delay. This has enabled communication to flow smoothly.”

The officer also said that previously they had to wait for power to resume to type and update cause list, fill succession forms and place court orders on the website.

“This would be an inconvenience to both the court users, litigants and even judicial officers but with the solar panels, it has been effective, ensuring that no delays both in typing and updating.”

“I think the Judiciary as a whole has made strides over the last five years with support from JPIP. There is always a new initiative being undertaken,” said World Bank Task Team Leader for JPIP Nicholas Menzies during a tour of the court.

He is impressed that most of the CUCs who received the small grants by JPIP have undertaken projects which are benefiting court users and the Judiciary in delivering justice.

“They have utilised the funds prudently and effectively in enhancing performance and services to the people,” he added. Last year, JPIP supported 78 CUCs with small grants worth Sh31 million geared at improving links within courts.

CUCs are established under the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) to address problems within the justice sector. They serve to promote accountability and improve performances by the courts by among other things constructing holding cells, waiting bays, procurement of computers; outreach programmes and public barazas, sensitisation workshops, prisons and children home visits, transport expenses for witnesses and Legal Aid clinics.

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