Bill on state austerity to cancel all court building renovations

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On April 26, the Standing Committee on Justice reviewed draft amendments to the 2022 Budget Law, Budget Laws of the Social Insurance Fund and the Future Heritage Fund, Law on Budget Framework Statement for 2022 and Budget Assumptions for 2023 to 2024, as well as their accompanying bills.

In specific, lawmakers expressed their views on the bill on state austerity, which sets obligatory restrictions on the activities of all budget organizations and state-owned and partially state-owned legal entities.

During the meeting, Minister of Labor and Social Protection A.Ariunzaya informed that the bill bans the state use of large cars in urban areas. In accordance with the bill, government officials will drive full-size cars only during business trips to rural areas.

In accordance with the draft law, directors of state-funded organizations will not make arbitrary decisions on staffing, basic salaries, additional pay, compensation or bonuses.

Generally, with the adoption of the bill, government organizations are estimated to save a total of 39.1 billion MNT. State-owned companies, for instance, are to cut down 10 percent of their approved budgets and a total of 80 jobs at state-owned companies are to be removed, including the positons of 37 deputy heads of government agencies and 21 provincial deputy governors. It is estimated that this will save 1.3 billion MNT.

Minister A.Ariunzaya reported that as of 2021, there are 208,000 civil servants nationwide. State officials, or 4,165 people, account for 2 percent of all civil servants. It is not possible to reduce the number of public service officials and special civil servants, she further explained. The ministry plans to restructure government agencies with the same functions.

Legislator J.Sukhbaatar commented, “There are some sectors that can’t have budget cuts. It is impossible to strengthen a democratic system without spending money. In other words, there is little opportunity to protect human rights and establish justice without money. The Law on Courts states that the costs of the judiciary must not be reduced. Mongolia has not invested in any judiciary other than the Supreme Court for seven to eight years. Therefore, 4 billion MNT has been budgeted for the judiciary. However, the current bill cancels 100 percent of the renovation work of court buildings. It should be reduced by no more than 50 percent. There are 520 judges in Mongolia.”

State Secretary of the Ministry of Finance J.Ganbat responded that in November last year, the government instructed all public entities to complete their procurement by March 1. No procurement contracts were made with the National Human Rights Commission or the Judicial General Council (JGC). The working group of the Standing Committee on Budget instructed the ministry to reconsider issues related to the judiciary and increase its budget. The ministry is working on it, J.Ganbat said.

Chairman of JGC D.Zumberellkham expressed, “The government has proposed a 2 billion MNT reduction from JGC’s expenses on goods and services other than salaries and pensions. In the future, the government needs to pay special attention to ensuring economic security for the normal operation of the judiciary. We were shocked to see all the courts, courtrooms and equipment. No investment has been made in this area in recent years. Judges work in buildings that do not meet the requirements of professional organizations.”

Highlighting that the Mongolian judiciary is not a government body, parliamentarian B.Enkhbayar criticized, “The judiciary is not an organization that asks the government for a budget. It is an independent body that monitors and holds the government accountable for the misuse of the state budget. JGC should do its job now. D.Zumberellkham became the chairman, promising to make sure the council performs its main job only. I was against making him the chairman. The council is responsible for protecting the independence of the judiciary. It’s a constitutional body. Don’t send a letter asking for a budget like a government agency.”

Misheel Lkhasuren