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29.03.2006 General News

40 billion cedis approved for Judiciary

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Accra, March 29, GNA - The Judiciary is to receive 40 billion cedis representing 50 per cent of its medium term budget presented to the Government, President John Agyekum Kufuor has announced.

The Government had looked at the Judiciary's 80 billion cedis medium term budget request and the Finance Minister had been directed to ensure that "you get at least 50 per cent of your budget", he said at a meeting with members of the Judicial Council at the Castle, Osu, on Wednesday.

The Council had sought audience with the President to discuss the state of the Judiciary and to plead for more support for investment activities of the Service.

In the 2006 main budget, it was allocated 19 billion cedis although it asked for 105 billion cedis to undertake some critical investment activities including the construction of an administration block, an Appeal Court Complex, establishment of a Judicial Training Institute and vehicles for magistrates.

President Kufuor noted that the Constitution hinged on a strong Judiciary to uphold the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people and it was, therefore, necessary to infuse some comfort into the Service.

He said they would ensure that there was fairness in the sharing of monies that came into the system.

President Kufuor said the problems the Judiciary faced was a malaise that ran through the entire public sector including the Presidency and the Legislature.

He called on the Council to come out with a master plan on how it intended to develop the Judiciary, saying it should sit back and if necessary and engage professional developers to help in the construction of structures for the courts.

There should be value for money, he said.

President Kufuor said he shared the concern about the poor state of some of court buildings in the country, citing the Cocoa Affairs Courts in Accra and the Ashtown Magistrates' Courts in Kumasi.

He said the Government was not only looking at the physical structures but the remuneration to make the Service attractive. Mr George Kingsley Acquah, the Chief Justice, said the Service was in difficulty with respect to its investment programmes. In February 2005, it put in a request for 80 billion cedis for investment but was asked to prioritise and scale it down and this it did, bringing the figure down to 61.3 billion cedis.

He said the Finance Ministry was instructed per a letter from the Office of the President to make the funds available but nothing was allocated.

It also did not reflect in the 2006 budget and: "We felt uncomfortable," he said.

Mr Justice Acquah, however, praised the Government for making sufficient funds available for the completion of the Administration Block that would provide office accommodation for the Supreme Court Justices and serve as fitting headquarters of the Service.

He appealed to District Assemblies to put up buildings for Magistrates' Courts, describing, the court environment where some magistrates and judges sat as frightening.

The Chief Justice said they were ready to set up a Financial Tribunal and Motor Courts in Accra and Kumasi. "We need more funding to fulfil our mandate", he said.