Indonesia // The costs of a court-case; how to finance the judiciary?

If your husband cheats on you and you want a divorce, how much would your case cost? Besides your costs for the lawyer, what would be the cost for the state of the judge, the office space, the photo-copying, the tea and the coffee? In most countries the government would pay for the greater part of these costs. Additionally, litigants in most countries pay court fees. But how can the government calculate the budget needed by each court? Should the court get paid per case, or per number of judges that work there, or should they get paid as per size of the population of their district? And how can the government know that these court budgets are spent efficiently?

Every country has to deal with these kinds of questions. And each country deals with them differently. The Netherlands is known for progressive performance-based court budgeting, where courts get a fixed amount of money for each case disposed. Courts are supposed to cover all their costs with this budget, including the salaries of the judges and the overhead costs. In Indonesia, the annual budget of the courts only concerns the overhead costs. The salaries of the judges are not included. It is therefor a challenge for the Indonesian government to asses these budgets and decide whether the budgets of each court reflect a righteous and efficient judiciary.

Within the framework of the Justice Sector Support Program (JSSP), the Center for International Legal Cooperation (CILC) and the Lembaga Kajian dan Advokasi Independensi Peradilan / Institute for the study and advocacy of an independent judiciary (LeIP) organised several meetings and workshops between the Dutch Raad voor de Rechtspraak (RvdR) / Council for the Judiciary, and the Indonesian Supreme Court, the Mahkama Agung (MA). During two visits to Indonesia in November 2015 and February 2016, Mr Jos Puts of the RvdR presented court budgeting in the Netherlands to the MA.

The Dutch financing system of the judiciary is based on a fixed amount of money per case. For instance, for the case mentioned above a district court would receive € 796. At the beginning of each year, each court plans the number of cases it will deal with, and based on that plan a court will receive their funding from the RvdR. In case the court conducts more cases than planned, it will receive additional funding; when fewer cases are conducted, the court will have to return a corresponding amount of money to the RvdR. If a court is able to conduct cases at lower costs than the national standard, it can keep its savings. This provides an incentive to the courts to be cost-effective and to dissolve as much as possible the incoming cases.

In Indonesia the system is quite different, but not unfamiliar. Many aspects of the Indonesian budgeting system mirror the situation of the Dutch courts in the 80’s. There are different types of courts: types A, B and C, and the number of judges and overhead budget is allocated by court type. If a court under spends, perhaps by operating more cost-efficiently, it actually has to pay back the remaining funds to the government, which could be considered a punishment for cost-effective operations. At the same time, the government does not know 1) how many cases are dealt with within one court, 2) how much time and resources it would take to deal with one case, 3) if a court has enough judges, 4) if the judges process enough cases per year.

Currently both the Indonesian and the Dutch judiciaries are discussing the size of their budgets, whereas in Netherlands the discussion focuses on the quality of the judiciary and the costs that go along with higher standards, and in Indonesia the discussion is that more money is needed. However, the supporting data for this argument is still missing. If data were collected, analysed and presented in a clear manner, the MA would have a clear and transparent mechanism to request a higher budget. It must be noted, however, that for 840 courts in Indonesia (compared to the 17 courts of the Netherlands) this would of course be a much larger exercise. Still, aspects of data collection, data analysis and effective budgeting will be further addressed in the near future in the scope of the JSSP project.

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