Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo says the Judiciary lacks financial independence as it is not being adequately funded.She said the full budgetary support for the Judiciary was not being met although the Executive and the Legislative arms of Government had respected and complied with judicial decisions.
“Even what is approved is never released on time and on quarterly basis, which is in contravention of Article 127(6) supra,” Chief Justice Akuffo said in a speech read on her behalf at the ongoing 70th Annual New Year School and Conference at the University of Ghana.
“This greatly affects and undermines the smooth running of the administration of justice and indirectly and subtly whittles down the independence of the Judiciary.” The four-day programme, on the theme: “Building Strong Institutions for Democratic Consolidation in Ghana,” is being organised by the School of Continuing and Distance Education of the College of Education, University of Ghana, in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
It is being attended by more than 300 participants including metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives, assembly members, academia, policy makers, civil society organisations, labour unions and political parties.
Speaking on the topic: “Judicial Independence and Democratic Consolidation,” Chief Justice Akuffo said in practice the Judiciary had shown the impartiality and fairness that Ghana’s democracy needed.
“Since the 1992 Constitution came into effect, the Judiciary has been called on to determine and decide on various constitutional questions, some of which have sorely tested the nation,” she said.
“If the scoreboard is any indication, we can claim success in the continuing stability of the State and the willingness of all parties to bring disputes to court for resolution. This, I believe, shows a belief and confidence in the fairness and robustness of our Judicial System and the persons who have been privileged to sit on the Bench on behalf of all citizens.”
Chief Justice Akuffo said if there was a threat to the nation’s Judiciary, it was from a lack of full appreciation of its work from sections of the public, which sometimes manifest in suspicion and unbridled attacks.
“Therefore, I call on the relevant institutions of state, such as the National Commission for Civic Education, to partner with us to educate the public to reduce distrust and provide clarity for all citizens,” she added.
She said the special adjudicative function judges played and their role in the society made their job of particular importance to a democratic society. The Judiciary, therefore, engaged in a vigorous training of members of the Bench right from appointment and on a continuous basis throughout their career on the Bench through the Judicial Training Institute (JTI), to enhance justice delivery and quality judgement.
The Chief Justice said the Public Complaints and Court Inspectorate Unit was a special Unit under her Office, established in 2003 as part of efforts to promote good governance, entrench anti-corruption, accountability and transparency in the Judicial Service.
She noted that the Judicial Service of Ghana still lacks fiscal independence as its budgetary request was never fully met by the Executive arm of Government. She said as a result, the JTI relied heavily on donor support for its training programmes in the area of development and delivery of programmes, provision of training logistics, development of books and training manuals.
Consequently, its activities were limited and not as effective as was the case in jurisdictions where there was adequate budgetary support. Chief Justice Akuffo said the workload of the courts had increased considerably and had become more complex with more challenges and causing delays in resolution of disputes.
Therefore, there was the need for reforms for quality and efficient performance through continuous training, professional evaluations and enhancing the skills and case management of judges as well as Judicial Service staff and administrators.
“We believe that a sound and healthy Judiciary with a sound fiscal independence is an invaluable asset for turning the nation and the African Continent around,” she said. Mr Kofi Abotsi, the immediate past Dean of the GIMPA Law School, in his contribution to the same topic, said in order to ensure optimal access to its services as a critical public good, the Judiciary must expand access and remove barriers to its functions.
He said filing fees and generally all factors that created the impression that justice in Ghana was taxed must be removed.