Bulgaria needs to focus on judiciary performance and accountability

October 7, 2008

SOFIA, OCTOBER 7, 2008 ― Over the last several years Bulgaria made important steps to modernize its judiciary. Significant Constitutional, legislative and procedural changes have been introduced to improve the structure and functioning of the judiciary. This has been accompanied by substantial increase in budgetary allocations. The focus now should be on sustaining and accelerating judiciary modernization aiming at improved performance and accountability for results. This is the main conclusion of the latest World Bank report titled

 “Bulgaria: Resourcing the Judiciary for Performance & Accountability - Judicial Public Expenditure and Institutional Review”, which was presented today.

Judiciary budget resources have doubled as a percent of GDP between 2001 and 2008 and are currently higher than in Romania, Slovakia and Czech Republic, for example. Bulgaria has a higher ratio of judges to inhabitants than five other new member states. Court buildings are located in more geographic locations (as a ratio of inhabitants and territory) than in most of the other new EU member states. Service demand in Bulgaria is comparatively high, however, with incoming cases per 100,000 inhabitants significantly greater than all other countries for civil and administrative cases and greater than most for criminal cases.

While resources for judiciary have steadily increased, they have mainly been used to raise and sustain judicial salaries, capital investments have not kept pace, and productivity improvements have been modest. Between 2004 and 2006, the average annual caseload per judge decreased from 372 to 343 cases (a drop of almost 8 percent), while the average number of completed cases per judge went down from 292 to 272 cases (a drop of almost 7 percent). There are also wide variations in average caseloads by type of court and district.

“The exploding civil and administrative caseload in Bulgaria indicates the hunger for efficient, transparent, credible and quick dispute resolution: the key challenge therefore confronting Bulgaria’s judicial leadership is to build on the reforms so far by developing, financing and implementing a judiciary-wide modernization program to sustain the transformation and demonstrate progress through monitorable performance indicators”, Amit Mukherjee, the World Bank’s Lead Public Sector Specialist and lead author of the Report, said.

Improving performance and accountability and thus increasing public trust and confidence in Bulgaria’s judiciary would require sustained efforts in strengthening the effectiveness of judiciary’s institutions and resource management. These include:

  • Introducing strategic planning and budgeting of resources linked to results. A strategic multiyear plan needs to be prepared that shows past performance and identifies targets for improvements in the coming three years. This planning process will require high levels of collaboration from the key role players in the sector – Supreme Judicial Council, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Finance.
  • Strengthening capital budgeting through realistic estimates of capital needs, prioritization and linking capital needs with expected performance improvements to address insufficient space in courts with high case overload.
  • Improving personnel management policies and processes to address wide variations in appointment decisions and improve efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Investing in information technologies for performance and transparency by focusing on standardization of business processes and technical infrastructure.

“The World Bank is privileged to have had the opportunity to partner with the Bulgarian authorities on this report - the most comprehensive analysis to date made by the World Bank for any country’s judiciary”, the country manager for Bulgaria Florian Fichtlsaid. (Read the whole statement)

"The Report floats relevant and useful ideas for accelerating…judicial reform, which remains a key priority to Bulgaria even after the accession to the European Union”, Minister of Justice Miglena Tacheva said. She cited specific measures being taken by the Ministry to implement the Report’s suggestions. "The Report’s proposals also serve…as a ground base for working out a new Strategy for continuation of the judicial reform until 2013", Ms. Tacheva said.

Mr. Ivan Kolev, Chair of the Budget Commission of the Supreme Judicial Council highlighted that "the Council was carefully examining how quickly key recommendations of this realistic assessment could be implemented”.