Roman Babiy, Ukrainian lawyer, politician, people's deputy of Ukraine for the IX convocation
In 2020, the Ukrainian judicial system is critically underfunded. Around UAH 2.3 billion is not enough for its normal work, so the courts may stop in the nearest future. Despite this, in the draft state budget 2021, the Cabinet of Ministers set an even greater funding deficit for the maintenance of the judiciary. Now, even in the cost-cutting mode, next year the courts lack about 5.6 billion hryvnias. Are we ready for the actual cessation of justice and the complete inability of citizens to protect their rights?
In the current budget, UAH 15.7 billion was allocated to finance the judiciary. However, even at the stage of adopting the 2020 budget, it became clear that the judicial system is critically underfunded. Therefore, the members of the Legal Policy Committee voted for the 2020 budget only after the then Minister of Finance recorded her commitment in Parliament to increase funding for the judiciary in the first quarter of 2020.
The government has changed, the Finance Minister has changed, the commitment has remained unfulfilled. As a result, in the last quarter of 2020 we have a critical underfunding of the judiciary - according to various estimates, in the amount of 1 to 2.3 billion UAH. It didn't even help that this year's spending on the judiciary was lower than expected at the beginning of the year - due to the inability of appointing new judges in 2020 and decrease of the judges’ bonuses for the quarantine period.
Today, courts lack money for such basic things as envelopes, stamps, paper, toners for printers. Because of this, courts cannot notify the parties of court hearings. There is not enough money even to pay for the work of court staff. There is a direct threat to stop the administration of justice.
This year, deputies devoted several meetings of the Legal Policy Committee to co-financing the judiciary. The stance of the Ministry of Finance is - it’s extremely difficult to find money now. Maybe they will find something, but do not guarantee all that is needed. Sadly.
It seems that appropriate conclusions should have been drawn. But what do we see in the draft budget of 2021, submitted by the Cabinet? Expenditures on the judiciary have been reduced even more compared to the obviously problematic financing of 2020 - now the Cabinet of Ministers offers UAH 15.65 billion to finance courts.
That is to say, they didn’t take into account while planning the budget that the minimum wage has increased. That in 2021 the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine should start working and the active appointment of new judges will begin, because the staff shortage in the court system has already reached a critical point. They even ignored the statement of the President of Ukraine that starting 2021 no state institution will be able to demand paper documents from citizens (which means active implementation and financing of electronic document management system in courts and maximum launch of modules of the Unified Judicial Information and Telecommunication System).
Yes, it is clear that due to the coronavirus pandemic and very difficult state of the economy, we have received new difficult financial challenges in 2020. But let's take a look at the trends of the draft state budget 2021.
For example, the budget for sports has increased more than UAH 3.3 billion. Because in 2021 the Paralympic and Deaflympic Games will be held, and in general it is very important to develop Ukrainian sports.
Expenditures on the functioning of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Office of the President of Ukraine, and the Parliament of Ukraine are increasing.
- Expenditures on law enforcement agencies are increasing:
- on the Ministry of Internal Affairs UAH 98.28 billion (+ 5.2%);
- on the Security Service of Ukraine - UAH 14.96 billion (+ 22.8%);
- on the State Bureau of Investigation - UAH 2.48 billion (+ 75.4%);
- on the National Anti-Corruption Bureau - UAH 1.06 billion (+ 15.3%).
But the key element of the law enforcement system is the courts. No matter how well they perform their tasks of punishing criminals at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, SSU, SBI, NACB, the final word in a guilty plea is still in court. Therefore, it is not difficult to predict what result we will see in the "imprisoning" if the courts do not work or work in vain due to lack of funding and lack of staff. And the courts and judges will be declared guilty of this, especially without understanding the original sources of problems.
A separate issue is the financing of the implementation of the Unified judicial information and telecommunication system. The draft budget for 2021 includes UAH 54.3 million for this purpose. According to the calculations of the State Judicial Administration of Ukraine, this actually requires at least UAH 239.8 million. Thus, it is proposed to cut funding by 77% compared to demand.
Personally, I wonder how, under such conditions, it is possible to fulfill the President's demand to transfer state bodies to paperless mode in 2021? Will there be exceptions for courts and maybe litigants will work with stacks of paperwork? I doubt it.
Given the tasks set, the funding of the Ministry of Finance in 2021 is planned to increase to about UAH 1.5 billion. However, under the current system of functionality distribution between the branches of government, this money cannot be used to finance courts. That is to say, it was forgotten again, and again then they will look for the culprits. But not in the Cabinet.
After analyzing the draft budget of 2021 proposed by the Cabinet of Ministers, the SJA made the following forecasts.
In 2021, only 4,902 judges and 22,287 court staff with an average salary of UAH 9,637 at the level of mandatory payments will be provided with a judge's remuneration. At the same time, the actual number of judges for 2021 will be 5,413 people and court staff - 2,547 people. That is, more than 500 judges and more than 2,700 staff members are left without salaries and, in theory, should be fired.
Expenditures on postage stamps, paper and other consumption expenditures are planned to be provided at the level of 23% in 2021 (UAH 450 million when UAH 1.9 billion is needed). This actually guarantees the impossibility of notifying the parties and conducting legal proceedings. Or we will have cases when conscious judges send correspondence at their own expense (such things already take place) or ask the plaintiff to bring paper, envelopes and stamps.
According to the SJA calculations, the critical minimum amount of expenditures for 2021, which should be additionally financed in comparison with the Cabinet's draft budget, is about UAH 5.6 billion.
The judicial system indeed normally needs more money. At the budget request of the SJA for 2021, the judicial system needed an additional UAH 25.1 billion. - to encourage staff, to fully fill the courts with judges, to improve and update the material and technical working conditions. But the minimum task for deputies is to at least support its work in the current conditions at the minimum essential level.
To do this, my colleagues and I have submitted appropriate amendments to the draft State Budget 2021. We will defend them. Because justice must be done, criminals must be punished, and citizens must be able to restore their violated rights. Pereat mundus et fiat justicia (Let justice be done, though the world perish).