Undecided cases that have been in the court system for over one year since they were filed dipped just eight per cent in the last fiscal year despite recent initiatives to improve service delivery in the Judiciary.

The total case backlog stood at 315,378 in the financial year 2016/17, down from 344,659 cases in the previous fiscal year, reveals a Nation Newsplex review of Judiciary annual reports.

Out of these, one in six or 52,352 cases had been in the court system for over 10 years since they were filed, the same ratio as the previous year. A fifth or 66,214 cases remained unresolved for between five and 10 years, a third or 113,766 suits were undetermined for two to five years and a quarter or 83,046 cases had languished in the justice system for one to two years.

There has been an overall decline in all the categories except for corruption-related complaints, which increased to 37 cases in fiscal year 2016/17 up from 32 the previous year, and delayed orders, which rose to 23 complaints from 21.

Backlog cases in the Supreme Court fell by almost two-thirds (59 per cent) in the last financial year, the sharpest decline recorded by any of the seven courts. It was followed by the Environment and Land Court (31 per cent), the Magistrate Court (nine per cent), Kadhis' Court (eight per cent) and High Court (six per cent).

However, backlog cases spiked 12 percentage points in the Employment and Labour Relations Court and one percentage point in the Court of Appeal.

A quarter of the unresolved cases in the Court of Appeal, a-third in the Magistrate Court and almost half (44 per cent) in the High Court had been in the system for over five years.

In contrast, the Supreme Court did not have any lawsuits that had been in the system for more than five years for the last two financial years while the Employment and Labour Relations Court and Kadhis' Court did not have any case in the courts for more than 10 years in 2016/2017.

Given the slow progress in addressing the backlogs it is no wonder that the top complaint received by the office of the Ombudsman is slow delivery of service.

The office received 3,005 complaints in the last fiscal year, down 16 per cent from 3,586 received the previous year. Out of the complaints received, slow service delivery was the highest at 31 per cent, followed by missing files at 26 per cent and poor services at 17 per cent.

But there has been an overall decline in all the categories except for corruption-related complaints, which increased to 37 cases in fiscal year 2016/17 up from 32 the previous year, and delayed orders, which rose to 23 complaints from 21.

The State of the Judiciary and Administration of Justice Report (2016-2017) attributes the decline in complaints in most categories to several factors, including employee sensitisation on service delivery, the implementation of a performance management and measurement framework in the Judiciary and an increase in the public engagement and sensitisation exercises undertaken by the office of the Ombudsman.

According to the report, the increase in corruption-related complaints during the period is partly due to the extensive audit exercises undertaken by the Judiciary Internal Risk and Audit Directorate in various courts across the country.

Three quarters of the complaints were processed and closed successfully.

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