The Minority in Parliament says the GH₵33 million allocated to the Legal Aid Commission is woefully inadequate.
The commission ensures equality of access to justice and treatment before the law by serving as a public defender for persons who are unable to foot the cost of litigation in court.
However, for years the commission has been woefully underfunded and failed to attract legal practitioners from the private sector due to poor working conditions.
According to Minority Spokesperson on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Bernard Ahiafor, if government is not serious about adequately resourcing the commission to work, then it must close the institution.
“Mr. Speaker if we want Legal Aid as an autonomous body being established by an act of parliament then with all due respect as a country we need to pay some attention to this particular institution. If we don’t want the Legal Aid Commission to exist, let us abolish it so that we know we do not have legal aid.
“To establish it with responsibility to go down to the districts, regional, not only at national with this kind of budgetary allocation, Mr. Speaker, legal aid commission is not an individual to be given a CAPEX budgetary allocation of 3 million. Goods and services to be 3 million.
“Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the legal aid, I am on my knee that the way and manner additional resources are provided for other institutions, we have to do the same for legal aid if we really want legal aid to perform its duties and responsibilities,” he said.
MP for Bia East, Richard Acheampong, also argued that because of the low budgetary allocation to the commission, very few good lawyers are willing to join the commission.
This he said has resulted in large swathes of the country lefty without the service of the legal aid commission.
“Together with the Attorney General’s office, many seasoned lawyers don’t want to work there because their conditions of service are very bad. And we’re pretending as if our state institution – so if you talk to somebody, ‘oh go to legal aid’, what is there?’ they can’t do anything for you.
“They don’t even have vehicles to traverse the length and breadth of this country in order to even support our people who are in need. Let’s put all the northern zone together; Savannah, Upper East, Northern Region and the rest, we have a lot of people who have cases because of financial constraints they can’t go to the court for a proper adjudication.
“And this system is not there to support these people and they can’t also travel to the south to access such facilities. So Mr. Speaker let’s be frank to ourselves and do what is right. Let’s put our money where our mouth is,” he lamented.
Despite these concerns, the house still approved 33 million cedis for the Legal Aid Commission.
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