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Speech by the Chief Justice: 22nd Annual JLOS Review

The Chief Justice, Hon. Justice Bart Katurebe delivering the keynote at the 22nd Annual JLOS Review on November 30, 2017 (Photo: JLOS) The Chief Justice, Hon. Justice Bart Katurebe delivering the keynote at the 22nd Annual JLOS Review on November 30, 2017 (Photo: JLOS)




My Lord, the Deputy Chief Justice
My Lord, the Principal Judge
Honourable Ministers
Honourable Justices of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal
Your Excellency, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Chairperson JLOS Development Partners Group
Your Excellencies, Heads of Diplomatic Missions in Kampala
The Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Public Service
Heads of JLOS Institutions
The Solicitor General and Chairperson JLOS Steering Committee
Members of the JLOS Steering and Technical Committees
Heads of Government Agencies and Departments
Partners and stakeholders from Civil Society and the Private Sector
Invited Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am delighted to welcome you all to this 22nd Joint Annual JLOS Government of Uganda – Development Partners’ Review. This is one of the most important events on the JLOS Annual calendar, and an opportune moment to reflect and take stock of our achievements against our set undertakings.
This review, as has been the case with the previous ones, is held in the spirit of positive and purposive partnership where we strategize together toward the greater JLOS Sector goal of ‘Justice For All’.

This year’s Review is special and an epitome of a commitment and promise made to the people of Uganda in 2012 to ‘Deepen reforms for a pro people justice system’. Today, we shall deliberate on the JLOS annual performance for the financial year 2016/2017, and also take stock of the past five years of hard work under the JLOS SIP III that came to an end on 30th June 2017.

The theme for this Review is “A Pro-people Justice System: Profiling Vulnerability, Delivering on the Promise”. The Promise to serve the vulnerable people of Uganda, who need JLOS services and in many cases do not have the means to afford or reach our service stations.

I am pleased to note that for most of you who have been part of the JLOS Sector trajectory of growth, the path, though interposed by challenges and limitations, has seen the Sector register a net positive progression. As you may recall, our first JLOS SIP I (2001 to 2005) focused on Sector rebuilding and retooling, then SIP II 2006/7 to 2011/12 strategically dealt with stabilisation and infrastructure development – popularly known as the ‘Brick and Mortar’ phase. Our most recent and now concluded SIP III phase (2012 -2017) was focused on deepening reforms for a pro-people justice system.

Our achievements in enhancing access to justice which are evident in our ever improving position in global and national assessments and indices are a product of our collective efforts and a source of pride. These are a result of primarily Government policy and support, and in addition, the strong partnerships that the Sector enjoys with all of you gathered here, and many other constituencies.

Together we have attained many milestones, overcome critical challenges, and reached out to more people in need of JLOS services. It is for this collective cause that we converge and reflect on our achievements, strategize better to overcome our challenges and plan ahead. Our achievements thus far have been born out of collective commitment to aspire for better, dedicated hard work, and progressive improvement within the scope of our means.

At a global level Uganda’s competitiveness and ranking continues to improve under various indices. For instance, according to the World Economic Forum Report of 2016, our score in the Index of Judicial Independence improved from 3.41 in 2015/16 to 3.6 in 2016/17 as a result of improved innovations and reduced interference in the judicial processes, among other developments. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Index, Uganda improved from 135th position in 2010 to 115th in 2017. Most of these details will be presented to us later on today.

I must emphasise that these rankings are a demonstration of our improvement but not the ultimate measure of success that we have set out to achieve. As a Sector and the country at large, we aspire to rank among the best globally in not only the realm of law and justice, but also other Sectors.

The Sector has reduced lead-times and steps required to access a complete service, therefore serving more people within a shorter time. We have reviewed and refined our service delivery processes in both civil and criminal justice systems. Our civil registries, such as the URSB and the DCIC have been re-organised and are progressively being automated. Most importantly, we recognise the central role that JLOS staff play in this development equation and the Sector continues to strengthening staff knowledge and technical capacity, professionalism, and integrity among all our staff. These developments and many others have had a ripple effect of increasing the Sector’s public confidence from a baseline average of 26% in 2012 to 48% in 2016.

To further demonstrate this, the annual average number of cases disposed-of grew by 64%, from 86,000 cases in 2011/2012, to 175,556 cases in 2016/2017. Specifically, the disposal of land cases reduced by more than half, from 36 months in 2010 to 15 months in 2016/17. The average time taken to process a forensic investigation reduced to 90 days from a baseline of 210 days in 2010. This has had a trickle-down effect in other areas such as reduction in length of stay on remand, reduction in case backlog levels, among others.

The average length of stay on remand for persons charged with capital offences reduced from 15 months to 10.4 months. The overall case backlog reduced from 35% in 2010/2011 to 24% in 2017, despite an increase in the overall cases filed across the justice system. On this note, the Sector plans to effectively implement the Case Backlog Reduction Strategy 2017 with a view to reducing case backlog to a single digit percentage within the next two years.
In geographical terms, the Sector has enhanced its service delivery coverage and reduced the distance people travel to access JLOS services from an average radius of 75km in 2012, to 15km in 2017.

With policing services now present in every sub-county in Uganda, coupled with Community Policing by the Uganda Police Force, the Sector has registered a reduction in the incidence of crime from 314 for every 100,000 persons in 2011, to 291 for every 100,000 in 2016 although some particular areas of crime are seeing a rise, such as sexual and gender based crimes. This reduction has been a result of hard work and dedication against a tide of a high population growth, a high rural-urban migration, and external pressures of sophisticated transnational economic and terrorism associated forms of crime.

I am proud to inform you that by the end of the SIP III period, 98% of construction projects had been completed. Some of these include the Justice Centres in Moroto, Kiruhura, Ibanda, Bulambuli and Koboko among others. The remaining 2% are those that commenced in the final year of the SIP III period and are on course to be completed. Some of the critical pending construction projects include the Kitalya Maximum Security Prison which is planned to relieve the current congestion at Luzira maximum prison. Currently, 40% of the work is complete.

The Sector’s institutional and functional presence is now in 82% of the districts and infrastructure has been provided by the Sector in 59.8% of the districts. However, our pursuit is to not only expand our functional physical presence, but also enhance the quality and purity of JLOS services provided to the public. The Sector is progressively automating some segments of its service delivery processes to improve efficiency and quality and minimise opportunity for abuse of discretion. As we shall learn from the presentations that will be made today, the URSB, NIRA, DCIC, ODPP, UPF and the Judiciary are progressively realising this undertaking.

However, these tales of success and achievements are but a part of the bigger picture of mixed fortunes. While we celebrate and consolidate our gains, the Sector continues to face some challenges in a number of critical areas; the current double-digit Case Backlog at 24% calls for spirited collective effort and commitment to overcome. We are mindful that while the Sector has achieved most of its projected construction plans, the pursuit of realising functional physical presence of all frontline institutions in all districts calls for more resources, prioritisation, and strategic planning. For instance, there is an urgent need for a multi-pronged approach to address the prison congestion that stood at 312% as at June 2017. As at the end of October 2017, the prison occupancy level was 328%. The prison occupancy is growing at an average rate of 9.8% while its holding capacity is growing at less than 2%. This is not a problem of the Uganda Prisons Service alone but a matter of concern for the entire Sector.

We take cognisance of the changing economic terrain and living conditions spurred on over time by internal and external economic pressures of development, resulting in increased cost of living. We are aware that some of our staff laid down their tools in protest as they demand for better remuneration. These actions are well intended and exercised within the law, however, they slow down the realisation of our collective targets, impinge on some human rights, and cause suffering to those that seek our services.

I am confident that the on-going holistic salary review and harmonisation processes initiated by the Government will go a long way in providing lasting solutions as opposed to piece meal treatment of some institutions. We are better off improving the working conditions of the public service as a whole than addressing one institution at a time. I therefore appeal to JLOS staff to be patient, pragmatic, and trust in the on-going salary review processes. For now, let us serve the people of Uganda.

I must note that incidences of perceived and actual corruption are still prevalent in some of the JLOS service stations, and this not only erodes the Sector’s image, but also increases the vulnerability of both the supply and demand sides of justice. I would like to use this opportunity, to call on all JLOS institutions to take concrete and decisive action against acts of corruption among institutional staff and users of JLOS services.

While many of the Sector problems and challenges require enhanced human and financial resources, some interventions such as the fight against corruption and impunity are in some cases budget neutral. I call upon the heads of JLOS institutions and departments, and agencies to take this matter more seriously and implement the JLOS Anti-Corruption Strategy, name, shame and punish the few that bring our work in disrepute, and enhance integrity within our rank and file.
Therefore, as we consolidate our achievements under the JLOS SIP III, it is my honour to invite all of you to continue in our partnership in implementation of the new Sector strategy – the JLOS Sector Development Plan IV. Later in the day, we hope to dedicate part of our time to unveil and deliberate on what is comprised in our new path of development that is to cover the period 2017 to 2020.

As I conclude, I thank the Government and the people of Uganda for supporting and having confidence in the JLOS Sector.

I especially thank the President of the Republic of Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni for delivering on the Constitutional promise of ensuring justice for the people of Uganda. The Government resource allocation to the JLOS Sector grew in absolute terms from UGX568 Billion in 2012/13 to UGX1.335 Trillion in 2016/17. This is a primary factor that accounts for the achievements of the Sector in terms of human resources, service delivery, and infrastructure development. However, we seek to achieve greater heights and enhance the welfare of the people of Uganda and improve the business environment and competitiveness of Uganda as an investment destination. With increased human and financial resources, and strategic planning, the Sector is set to further improve dispute resolution lead times, expand faster registration and development of small scale businesses that increase the national tax base, enhance movement of labour and trade across the East Africa Community, further reduce levels of crime, and promote the rule of law. We therefore pray that as the national budget grows, we see a commensurate growth in the Sector’s budgets as opposed to the current situation, where the Sector budget has increased in absolute terms but has reduced as a percentage of the national budget.

On such an important occasion, the Sector proudly extends its gratitude for the generosity and support of the JLOS Development Partners, with whom we work so intimately to deliver on the promise – the promise to deliver ‘Justice For All’. Over the SIP III period, the Sector received both Budget and Project support toward the JLOS Development budget in addition to direct project and technical capacitation support.

On this occasion, I would like to be more specific and re-sound our gratitude on behalf of the people of Uganda, and the Government of Uganda to the citizens and governments of Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, United States of America and the European Union. I extend our appreciation to the East Africa Community Governments that have collaborated with the Sector over the SIP III period, the United Nations agencies, particularly UNICEF, UN Women, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNDP, International NGOs, and also the Uganda Civil Society Organisations.

As a collective and through your missions, delegations, agencies, and direct participation, you have supported the course of justice and the rule of law in Uganda. We pledge to stay this course, continue to nurture strong partnerships, and remain accountable in our pursuit of justice for all.
I also thank the Political, Policy and Technical leadership of the 18 JLOS institutions for staying the course of justice, steering reforms, and maintaining the commitment to the JLOS family. While our aspirations remain demanding, today we take note and cognisance of the gains achieved. I appeal to you, to continue promoting the cause of the Sector such that we continue to convene and celebrate shared success and achievements.
I would like to applaud the work of the JLOS Secretariat. The critical coordination and technical backstopping role that you play, fuels our innovation, collaboration and as a result, the JLOS stands out like no other Sector in Uganda. I thank you!

Last, but by no means least, I use this opportunity to thank the men and women that serve under the 18 JLOS institutions in the different parts of this beautiful country. I have surely visited all parts of the country and many JLOS service stations and I know that most of you work hard under challenging circumstances and I know that it is your dedication that has assured much of the Sector’s success. It is for these reasons and more, that I personally thank you for the good job that you do, for serving the people of Uganda, and taking pride in a noble cause of promoting justice for all people, and for saying NO to corruption.
You must always remember that our cause is a collective enshrined in the 3 Cs – Cooperation, Coordination and Communication. Therefore, your needs are a shared concern, just as we come together to take pride in our success. I call upon your individual resolve to make the cause of justice a personal commitment and together let us continue to move a notch higher. I would like to assure you that I will do whatever is within my power to ensure better and more dignified working conditions, cultivate strategic partnerships that build our common interests, and above all, endear professionalism in our work.

Once again, I welcome you all to this historic event, where we join hands to close yet another chapter in our pursuit of justice for all, and at the same time pave the road ahead for a new episode.
It is now my honour and pleasure to declare the 22nd Annual Joint JLOS Government of Uganda – Development Partners Review open.

Bart M. Katureebe