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The House of Representatives has approved a resolution cutting the link between salaries paid to high court judges, and those for legal officers in the public service.
The approval frees the Government’s hand to award increases to the higher judiciary, without the constraint of having to extend similar benefits to its legal officers, thus paving the way for more substantial increases for these judges.
It was one of several recommendations made by a three-member commission which reviewed the salaries of the judges, and reported last year that they were “woefully inadequate and embarrassing.”
Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, piloted the Civil Service Establishment (General) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2009, in the House on Tuesday (June 30).
He explained that in 1993, the previous Government adopted a wage policy, whereby increases in the salary scale for legal officers in the public service were linked to the scale of increases granted to Puisne Judges and Judges of the Court of Appeal. However, the Commission found that the salary increases for the higher judiciary were at a scale, which was not within the financial and budgetary constraints of the Government, and therefore should not be extended to the legal officers.
Mr. Shaw said that the commission felt that, given the need to protect the constitutional independence of the higher judiciary, as well as their special circumstances, they ought to be paid salaries on the basis that the higher judiciary is not part of the civil service, or any other executive arm of Government, and reflecting the role they play in the proper functioning of the country’s constitutional machinery.
“The policy whereby the increases in salaries to legal officers in the public service were linked to the increases granted to the higher judiciary was discontinued, consequent upon the need to recognise the higher judiciary for separate treatment as a constitutional arm of Government,” he said.
He argued that the deterioration in the financial resources of Government imposes budgetary constraints that render increases to legal officers, on the scale given to Puisne Judges and Judges of the Court of Appeal, unaffordable and contrary to proper fiscal management and good governance.
A second resolution moved by Mr. Shaw on Tuesday, affirmed the Civil Service Establishment (General) (Amendment) Order 2009, under which 1341 new posts were created; 198 were upgraded; 52 were reclassified; and 216 were re-titled.
However, Mr. Shaw pointed out that, in respect of the posts created, most will be offset by other posts that will be retired. This means that there will be no net increase in the size of the public service. A large part of this restructuring process is taking place within the Ministry of Finance.