KAMPALA – The Deputy Chief Justice, Richard Buteera, was on Monday and Tuesday taken on a guided tour of the different registries at the Court of Appeal in a bid to establish the Court caseload and registry successes and challenges.
The DCJ visited the Civil, Constitutional and Criminal registries and held meetings with the Registry staff in which strategies to improve efficiency and enhance performance were discussed.
Civil, Constitutional Registries
On Monday, the Court of Appeal Registrar, Anguandia Godfrey Opifeni flanked by the Court’s Ag Assistant Registrar, Mary Babirye led the DCJ on a guided tour of the File Creation Room which doubles as the Mediation Registry, Records Centre, Constitutional Matters Registry and the main Civil Registry.
The DCJ started off with a meeting with the Registry staff where he sought to find out first hand their work challenges and working conditions.
He referred to the Registry as the lifeline of any court since that is where results of what has transpired in court are entered and where case files are kept.
The head of the Civil Registry, Ms Peluce Kabagenyi in her report to the DCJ outlined a number of challenges that her 16 staff face in the execution of their duties.
She pointed out that the 16 serve both Constitutional Matters Registry and Civil Registry which is inadequate. “We don’t have enough staff and so most of the registries are managed by office attendants. The archives, record centre and creation room are managed by attendants which is not ideal.”
She pointed out the need for continuous capacity building exercises to improve the efficiency of the Registry staff.
Ms Kabagenyi said while the Registry has adequate computers, they need a binding machine to bind records for their Lordships. She asked for another trolley to ease movement of files and other court records.
In relation to keeping of files, Ms Kabagenyi requested for more shelves as many files are heaped on the floor. She also appealed to the DCJ for facilitation to enable a few members of her team to reorganise the archives and Records Centre. The DCJ granted this request as one of the measures to improve records management at the court.
Other concerns raised was the unstable internet connectivity which Justice Buteera said the Technical Committee was addressing.
Others included the need for a ladder in the Central Registry, networked printer, reinstatement of Court allowances, among others.
HW Opifeni said decentralisation of Court of Appeal Registry services in the different regions of the country will help in bringing services closer to the people. He also called for increasing of the number of Justices at the court to ensure expeditious handling of Appeals.
HW Babirye said there are also space constraints. She pointed out that there is no space to house an independent Registry for Appellate Mediation which is a new dispute resolution mechanism at the court. HW Babirye noted that although there is a duty rota, often they have to recall staff to attend to court business especially when there are ongoing sessions.
In terms of pending cases; there are 1,742 Civil Appeals, 1,334 Civil Applications, 222 Constitutional Petitions, 185 Constitutional Applications and 10 Election Petitions; two pending hearing, four pending judgment and two pending ruling.
On Tuesday afternoon, the DCJ dedicated his time to the Criminal Registry. Here, the the Registry in-charge, Moses Wamalwa, said the Registry is multi-purpose as it is used as office space accommodating 10 staff, archive, record centre and storage facility due to lack of space to have dedicated spaces.
To illustrate how inadequate the space is, the Court’s Deputy Registrar, Ayebare Tumwebaze, took the DCJ to the hallway where files have been heaped on the floor due to lack of space. HW Ayebare said the security of these files is not guaranteed since it is an open area. He said if the files were digitised, it would help decongest the Registry and also ensure security of files.
The DCJ reassured him that with the Electronic Court Case Management Information System in the offing, this will be handled since e-filing is one if it’s key features.
Among the concerns raised was some High Court files missing judgments. To this, he urged the Registry staff to list all these files that fall under this category so that the High Court can be put to task to produce these records.
The head of the Registry said there are a total of 2,445 Appeals pending High Court records which date as back as 2009.
“There are also 592 pending cases ready for hearing,” Mr Wamalwa said adding that there are 10 files pending judgments.
He also called for adequate planning to avoid last minute fidgeting. On the issue of lack of transport to serve process of court documents, Justice Buteera said they will get a motorcycle to ease service in the greater Kampala area.
The DCJ thanked the staff for their candid discussions and said the concerns had been noted and would be used to improve service delivery in the meetings where his Private Legal Secretary, Dr Alex Mushabe Karocho equally attended.