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The working group meets on a regular basis to evaluate the state of governance in Ghana. The working Group is constituted of the Chief Director of the Ministry of Justice, the three Divisional Heads of the Attorney-General’s Department, Representatives from USAID, DANIDA, World Bank Judicial Service and the UNDP.

 

The first presentation was by the Ag. Solicitor General and head of the Civil Division of MOJAGD, Mrs. Helen Ziwu. She said A-G’s department is responsible for legal matters in relation to the Executive power and Legislative power of the state.

 

She further noted that Legislative Instrument 220 establishes the Prosecutions, Civil and Legislative Drafting Division of the A-G Department.

 

Mrs Ziwu said the Civil Division has a staff strength of 47 Attorneys supported by pupils from the Ghana Law School and six administrative staff. The Solicitor General noted that the Attorneys worked in groups of five, this she said was to ensure effective supervision. She explained that to ensure effective supervision and mentoring, the office was structured that work moved from Junior Attorney to the senior most Attorney.

 

Touching on key activities of the Civil Division she noted:

 

  1. The Division defends and represents the Republic of Ghana
  2. Files processes
  3. Defends, handles and Institutes court processes
  4. Processes and settle claims on behalf of government and MDAs
  5. Reviews and drafts Legal Documents
  6. Handles arbitration with the assistance of external lawyers. Like the law of the sea matter between Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire.

 

She then catalogued a number of challenges which she noted cuts across the Divisions, that is the Civil, Legislative Drafting and Prosecutions Divisions.

 

Enumerating them she said:

 

  1. Late or non-release of approved budget tranches was a major constraint.
  2. Inadequate staff strength coupled with the ban on employment and replacement of staff.
  3. Lack of Office space.
  4. Registry of Civil Division not computerized hence delay in retrieving data.
  5. Unskilled Registry Staff.
  6. Poor record keeping.
  7. Lack of computers.
  8. Out dated computers
  9. Lack of a well-stocked Library.
  10. The unavailability of electronic version of existing laws.
  11. Also the non-cooperation of MDAs to furnish the A-Gs Department especially in instances of default Judgement cases.
  12. Inadequate supply of pool cars.
  13. No photocopiers and scanners and
  14. The need to train the Government Attorneys on a structured basis.

THE WAY FORWARD

 

  1. Helen ZIwu called for the completion of the Law House which after completion can accommodate present staff and more comfortably.

 

  1. She also appealed to the donor partners to consider funding the training of government Attorneys.

 

  1. Attorney placed on Boards should first and foremost advice the boards especially against withholding information from the A-Gs Department.

 

  1. Also consider training staff as paralegals. To this there was a reaction that the Ghana Bar Association was against the initiative.

 

  1. Lastly, he called for legal search engines such as Nexus and Lexus.

 

The Ag. Director who is on leave was represented by Mr. Amponsah. In his presentation he noted that most of the things enumerated by the Ag. Solicitor General did cut across and as such would not want to repeat them.

 

The Prosecutions Division, he said, has a staff strength of 39. He said the Prosecutions Division prosecutes all criminal cases, advice on dockets that is the complex ones, they are represented on boards and also serve as secretaries on some Boards and lastly, handle petitions. Mr. Amponsah suggested that as a means of motivating the Attorneys, vehicles could be provided for them and hardworking Attorneys rewarded.

 

CONTRIBUTIONS ON THE FLOOR

 

It was suggested that as a way of solving the acute accommodation problem at the A-Gs department, some Attorneys should be posted out to the MDAs as legal advisors.

 

In response to the suggestion, it was said that it had been tried before but the Attorneys who were posted were not responsive to directives being given by the A-Gs department. Also the A-Gs could not send senior Attorneys as such they would end up sending junior lawyers which eventually will not inure to the benefit of the recipient.

 

It was also pointed out that there were so many initiatives being funded by Donor Partners which if well-coordinated would merge projects that have similar objectives. It was pointed out that there would not be enough funding from the donor community for some time to come hence the need to effectively merge initiatives instead of operating in silos.

 

The last presentation was from the Director of the Programme Management Unit (PMU), Ms. Sandra Thompson who said the PMU is coordinating the legal and Judicial Sector Reforms. She explained that the sector reforms started in 2013 at the instance of H.E. President John Mahama.

 

The reforms, she said, was supervised by a Joint Steering Committee headed by the Chief Justice and the Attorney – General who meet on a quarterly basis. She then outlined four key strategic areas tackled during the year 2015.

 

  1. Development of Standard Operating Procedures: she said a consultant had been hired and that it was hoped that a standard manual would be written comparable to that of the Judicial Service.
  2. Training Plan: also a consultant has been hired to come up with a training guide for the Attorneys and Administrative Staff.
  3. Communication management strategy: to this, she noted that there was the need to communicate information to stakeholders on the reforms. A consultant had not been hired yet as those who applied did not meet the criteria.
  4. Case Management System: she said there was an issue which needed to be resolved. She explained that the World Bank was running a similar project, the e-transform. Her expectations were that both projects be merged to provide the platform for which allied institutions engaged in the delivery of Justice would be connected online.

 

She ended by noting that there have been so many reforms but this reform is unique as it seeks to link some allied institutions in the delivery of Justice.

 

Ebenezer Owusu-Ansah (Information Officer)