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23.09.2003 General News

A-G Defends Law School Fees

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Accra, Sept 23, GNA - The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice on Tuesday defended the fees charged at the Ghana Law School saying they were not excessive.

Papa Owusu Ankomah told Journalists at the Meet-The-Press Series in Accra: "When one considers the extent of training that the lawyers go through the money could not be considered as excessive."

The Law students currently pay 12 million cedis per semester. Papa Owusu-Ankomah said medical, accounting and engineering students and other professionals pay more.

He said, even though, government was not insensitive to these huge sums, "I cannot as Attorney-General order a slashing of the fees. "What I have done is to appeal to the Director of the School to explore other avenues where some students could be assisted with soft loans."

He said it was not tenable that brilliant and industrious students stop school just because of high fees.

Papa Owusu-Ankomah said he was aware that most lawyers do not work with his department after training because of the low salaries, "but the time has come to let up and coming lawyers know the immense exposure and knowledge they get by working with the A-G's Office.

Commenting on the call that the office of Attorney -General should be separated from that of Justice, Papa Owusu-Ankomah said "the Office of the Attorney-General is a corporate one while the role of the Justice Ministry is about the A-G overseeing institutions that have issue with human rights, accountability and law".

Asked about why the cases involving Mrs Sherry Ayittey and Tsastu Tsikata have slowed down, even though, they were supposed to be in the Fast Track Court, the Attorney-General said a lot had been done over the period under review.

He explained that the Prosecution has finished giving evidence and the Defence would start making submissions when the legal vacation ended.

"The cases in question would be continued on October 15 and I want to assure you that everything would be done to ensure that people, who have by their actions or inaction caused the country losses would be brought to book."

The A-G decried the low manpower level of the Ministry saying something drastic must be done to reverse the dwindling numbers. He said a report in 1997 recommended that 104 Attorneys were needed in addition to the 96 that were at post at the Ministry at the time to enable the Office to fulfil its constitutional mandate.

He noted that though the volume of work had increased, the Office now has only 84 Attorneys.

Papa Owusu-Ankomah said the current number was made up of Senior Attorneys and Very Junior Attorneys with few Middle Level Attorneys, "therefore using the 1997 report, the Ministry still needs 116 more Lawyers".

He said the challenge was more striking when one considered the number of Attorneys at the Regional Offices and the minimum number required by the 1997 report.

He said Ashanti Region needed 10 but had five with two at the Land Title Registry and another at the Lands Commission; Sunyani needed eight but had only two and Koforidua needed eight too but had only five. He said Tamale, Sekondi and Ho needed eight each but they had only three, eight and four in that order.

Papa Owusu-Ankomah said Cape Coast, Wa and Bolgatanga needed eight each but had three, one and two in that order.

He said 11 out of 12 applicants interviewed recently had been successful and had been offered appointments. "Regrettably only four have reported for duty with the rest being employed by the private sector and other public sector institutions with better service conditions.

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