The head of parliament's budget and finance commission said funding should not be used as pretext for judiciary's inefficiency.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 14/11/12
Officials in Kosovo's justice system say they need more funding and staff to improve efficiency. [AFP]
Kosovo's justice system is often criticised for its poor functioning, but judges, prosecutors and researchers say the system's ills are caused by lack of proper finances and staffing.
Budget limitations imposed upon the judiciary by the finance ministry last year totaled 791,000 euros, which required cutting 210 administrative positions and made courts less equipped to deal with cases.
Kosovo has 105 municipal, district and state prosecutors, and another nine in its special prosecutor's office. An ongoing interview process is expected to fill 29 vacant prosecuting positions, and 20 vacancies are still to be filled with candidates coming from minority communities.
"This number is not enough," Ismet Kabashi, Kosovo's chief state prosecutor, told SETimes. "We lack especially professional collaborators or legal assistants who cannot be secured due to the salaries which are not attractive to them."
The Kosovo Judicial Council said 1,929 positions were approved based on the 2012 budget. The total includes 399 judges and 1,530 administrative staff. Kosovo's justice system had a budget of nearly 19 million euros in 2012. In 2013, that figure is expected to be around 20 million euros.
"These positions are not enough for the functioning of the justice system because we need 210 additional positions mainly for the administration in all the courts in Kosovo," Aishe Qorraj, a spokesperson for the Kosovo Judicial Council, told SETimes.
Kosovo Law Institute, a legal reform NGO, released a report this month that noted government intervention in the sector. Most notably was a 344,000 euro reduction in capital projects.
In addition, the judiciary was forced to cut 447,000 euros from its goods and services and utility expenditure. The government reductions lowered the financial resources for capital investments by about 15.7 percent, while the expenditure for goods and services and utility was reduced by about 9.5 percent.
Menderes Ibra, an adviser to Minister of Finance Bedri Hamza, said the justice system's budget is of "special importance."
"The requests coming from this sector are fulfilled at a much higher level than the others," Ibra told SETimes. "This can be also noted at the substantial improvement of the salaries in the justice system, but also in the other budget categories."
Safete Hadergjonaj, the head of the parliamentary commission for budget and finance, told SETimes that no institution had all of its budget requests fulfilled, adding that any reasonable requests by the judiciary were included in the budget.
Kabashi said prosecutors' salaries have been improved and equalised with the salaries of the lawmakers and the executive power. A 2010 law increased judges' average salaries from 500 euros per month to 1,000 euros per month.
But, according to Kosovo Law Institute, "The budgetary support of 16 to 18 million euros per year, of which 89 percent is operational expenses, does not represent support development of the judiciary, rather only ensures its survival."
Hadergjonaj agreed that "more funds are needed for the justice system," especially for human resources and to improve working conditions. But he added that, "I don't think the funds can be a pretext for lack of efficiency in the work of the justice system or for the tendencies for corruptive acts."
Ibra said critics should analyse the administrative capacities of the justice system, "especially on the planning and adequate management of the budget within this system."
"The financing of a sector does not necessarily mean only the quantitative financial aspect, but above all, the planning in time and the efficient use of the funds," Ibra told SETimes.