Unrealistic budget

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Unrealistic budget
Unrealistic budget

Africa-Press – Liberia. The Liberian National Bar defends the Judiciary over low budgetary appropriations that it terms unrealistic and insufficient.

The Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) is angry with the government regarding budgetary allocation to the Judiciary, which it terms as unrealistic and insufficient.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, June 10, 2024, in Monrovia, LNBA President Cllr. Sylvester D. Rennie said that the Bar is disappointed and surprised by the government’s budgetary allocation to the Judiciary.

Cllr. Rennie laments that out of a total budgetary appropriation for Fiscal Year 2024 of US$738,859,837, the Judiciary is allocated US$17,000,000, noting that it is very inadequate to address some of the pressing challenges faced by the judiciary, including the construction of judicial complexes in some of the counties, among others.

“LNBA is disappointed and surprised about the budgetary allocation made by the Government of Liberia to the Judiciary. The recent allotment made to the Judiciary for US$17,000,000 is insufficient and unrealistic, and we therefore urge the government to [prioritize] the judiciary by increasing its budgetary allocation”, he pleads.

The Liberian lawyer explains that under Article 72 (a) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, the salaries, allowances, and benefits of justices and judges are determined by law, and these salaries can’t be diminished; rather, they should be increased.

Cllr. Rennie points out that they are aware of the harmonization scheme employed by the previous government, which greatly affected the salaries, benefits, and allowances of justices and judges and has yet to be corrected.

He notes that most magisterial courts in Liberia are presided over by non-lawyers, and the judiciary must provide the necessary incentives for lawyers to be attracted to serve in these positions.

He argues that these incentives need to be provided for within the judiciary’s budget to attract the caliber of lawyers who would serve in these positions.

He continues that there are rape, debt, probate, tax, and sexual offenses courts that are established in all of the counties, but only a few of these courts have judges due to budgetary allocation.

“This has caused the circuit court docket around the country to be overcrowded because the circuit judges have to assume jurisdiction over these various courts. For a more functional judiciary, there must be realistic budgetary appropriation made to enable its render the kind of judicial service expected”, he underscores further.

Cllr. Rennie also laments that the Judiciary Branch of government has been treated in the past as an ordinary agency when it comes to budgetary allocation.

The astute Liberian lawyer believes that this has undermined and impeded the activities of the court and other Judiciary functions.

“The Rule of Law is a pivotal pillar under the “ARREST Agenda” of this government and to the subject or allot such a very low amount for a branch of government, which has competing compelling priorities, while ordinary agencies under the Executive Branch are allocated more money in their budgets, is a disservice to the rule of law sector, which undermines access to Justice,” the Bar President argues.

He says the Judiciary in its drive to provide access to justice, has a Public Defender Program, where Public Defenders are hired under its budget to cater mainly to indigent clients around the country.

According to him, these Public Defenders have not had incentive for the past years to strengthen and capacitate themselves in work they do and in an attempt to incentivize them, it is just proper that the budget of the Judiciary be increased.

The Supreme Court of Liberia returned appropriation allotted in the 2024 National Budget for its operations, terming the allocation as unfair and unjust.

The judiciary argues that this is an attempt by the Executive and Legislative Branches of the government to further reduce it to an unacceptable condition.

The Director of Public Information for the Judiciary Cllr. Darryl Ambrose Nmah, Sr., through a press release dated Wednesday, June 5, 2024, said that in the spirit of coordination and corporation, meetings were held with the leadership of the Legislature and the Presidency before the passage of the 2024 fiscal budget in which the Judiciary brought this to the attention of the other two branches. But it seems its concerns are being ignored.

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