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Judges Cry For Financial Independence

President of Association of Magistrates and Judges Ghana, Justice Victor Ofoe, has called for total independence of the Judiciary from all other arms of government as well as departments and agencies.

He asserted that the independence must include financial independence as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.

According to him, the Constitution has given the Judiciary financial autonomy and “nobody is to interfere in the financial administration process of the Judiciary except for audit purposes”.

The Judiciary has over the years expressed concerns over the absence of financial independence for the Judiciary in the country although the 1992 Constitution guarantees the Judiciary financial independence.

The Chief Justice, Justice Sophia Akuffo, recently questioned the situation where the Judiciary is subjected to the same budgetary constraints as the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) which the Judiciary in law does not form part.

She has reiterated the need for the Judiciary to be adequately resourced for it to be able to play its crucial role of administering justice effectively.

In her view, the sizeable parts of funding is given to the Executive and the Legislature whiles the Judiciary is left to its fate with peanut funding which is not enough to run the affairs of the Judiciary.

Speaking at the 38th Annual General Meeting of the Association of Magistrates and Judges Ghana, Justice Ofoe reiterated the need for the Judiciary to be given financial independence to enable it deliver its mandate effectively. He said there are very good reasons why the independence of the Judiciary was incorporated in the 1992 Constitution.

Accommodation

He bemoaned the lack of accommodation for judges particularly those in the hinterland which he said has become monotonous to complain about.

He said where accommodation exists they are so dilapidated that some judges are forced to rent private premises with the attendant difficulties of sharing compounds with other users.

“It is becoming a notorious fact that landlords are finding it difficult to rent out their property to judges because of the general knowledge that we will saddle them with nonpayment of rent matters. Wherein lies the independence of the Judiciary when judges are such endangered”, Justice Ofoe bemoaned.

He added that court room accommodation for magistrates and judges is not any different as their security cannot be guaranteed.

“Last year when the security of judges was threatened by some misguided elements within the society the airwaves were pregnant with comments and discussions sympathetic to the plight of judges. Weeks later, we went back to the same insecure surroundings,” he pointed out.

Improvements

Justice Ofoe mentioned some achievements that have been made to better the living and working conditions of magistrates and judges across the country although he is of the view that some of those improvements could have had a little more.

He disclosed that carrier magistrates who satisfy the entry requirements can now enter the Ghana School of Law on study leave and become professional lawyers or magistrates.

He said fuel for lower court magistrates and judges has also been approved and currently being enjoyed by the judges.

He stated that there has been some salary review for the judges but wished they had a “better deal” as the percentage increase does not meet their expectations.

The meeting was used to honour some retired judges, including Justice William Atuguba who retired in July this year.

Source: Daily Guide

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