Underfunding Justice ministry will muzzle operations, parly committee




Energy Mutodi
Spread the love

THE Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs says failure by Treasury to meet the bid submitted by the Justice ministry is likely to have far-reaching consequences, including the incapacity to uphold human rights, sustain democracy, combat corruption, rehabilitate offenders and create an enabling environment for national development.

NATHAN GUMA

The Justice ministry was allocated ZW$1 078 019 000 000 (US$186 186 355) in the 2024 National Budget presented by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube a fortnight ago, a 34% shortfall from the ZW$1.6 billion it had bid for in the pre-budget seminar.

In a report presented in Parliament this week, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Portfolio Committee chairperson Energy Mutodi said the shortfall will have adverse effects on the justice delivery system.

“The budget analysis can simply be summarised by stating that there are wide variances between the budget bids and the allocated amounts. We expect the honourable minister to support institutions if they run out of funds,” Mutodi said in the report.

“An analysis of budget variations indicates that in some cases, budget deficits have increased from 2023 to 2024, illustrating the fact that our portfolio continues to suffer significant under-funding. Despite a reduction in variation deficit for the ministry and other institutions, they remain significantly underfunded.

“The failure, by Treasury, to meet the bid requirements of the ministry of Justice and its attendant commissions will have far-reaching ramifications on the delivery of justice and key aspects of governance. The impact will manifest itself in failure to uphold key human rights, sustain democracy, address corruption, rehabilitate offenders, promote peace, and create an enabling environment for national development in line with the National Development Strategy (NDS).”

Mutodi said the shortfall is also likely to see Zimbabwe losing dignity within the international community. He said, among other things, the ministry is likely to fail to meet demand for its services, which is a violation of the rights of the citizenry.

“Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs had a 34% shortfall. The following may be expected: continued failure to decentralise such key services as the Legal and Litigation Services, Legal Aid Directorate and the Master of High Court as well as to automate key services is denying citizens’ access to speedy justice,” he said.

“Failure to pay bills; The ministry may not be able to pay its obligations to political parties in line with the laws and dictates of the country’s democracy; Failure to gazette and publish laws and dictates of the country’s democracy.”

Mutodi said this is likely to lead to the violation of the rights of prisoners who lack decent facilities, food and other welfare needs in line with the constitutional and human rights standards.

The state of prisons has been captured by the United States embassy in Harare, whose 2022 Human Rights Report showed that the country’s prisons have become uninhabitable because of extreme water shortages, lice infestations, shortage of blankets in the cold season, physical mistreatment of prisoners, and lack of access to personal hygiene products, as well as inadequate sanitary conditions.

Findings by the report revealed that several children below the age four have been sharing cells with their mothers, while also sharing food allocations rather than receiving their own, showing food insecurity in state prisons.

Ezoic
Prison sanitary facilities have been worse, despite the distribution of menstrual hygiene supplies by non-governmental organisations, according to the report.

The Justice and Legal Committee also proposed that the Zimbabwe-Anti Corruption Commission (Zacc) be allowed to retain 30% of the value of money and assets it recovers for the purposes of funding its own operations.

“Acknowledging that the available cake remains small compared to the competing priorities of national interest, the committee recognises capacity of some of the institutions under its portfolio to generate own revenue. The remainder can be distributed among other institutions like the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
“The committee also notes the capacity of the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) to generate own revenue and advocate for them to be allowed to retain a 100% percentage of such revenue.”

Last month, main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) parliamentarians condemned Zacc over the low number of convictions referred to the police, despite the rampant illicit financial flows in the country.

According to its 2022 annual report, Zacc received 684 criminal cases, with over 70% being accounted for by Harare.

Matabeleland South only had one case, accounting for 0.20%. Of the cases, only 147 cases were referred to the police, a situation worsened by the National Prosecution Authority’s (NPA) low crime clearance rate.

Source: NewsHawk