Cape Coast gets Public Complaints Unit

BY: Timothy Gobah & Deborah Oluwamuyiwa
Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo ready to cut the tape to declare the unit officially opened
Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo ready to cut the tape to declare the unit officially opened

The Judicial Service is revising its ethics and training curriculum for new judges and magistrates, with increased focus on anti-corruption and highlighting the severe consequences for those out to engage in corrupt practices.

The Chief Justice, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo, who made this known, said the service had plans to revamp its Judicial Training Institute to provide all the required training, teaching and sensitisation for its staff.

The Chief Justice was speaking at the inauguration of the Public Complaints Unit of  the Judicial Service at the Cape Coast High Court as part of her four-day tour of the Central Region yesterday.  

The unit will, among other things, build the capacity of the Judiciary to condemn and fight corruption and make its practice a high-risk, low-gain activity and also conduct effective investigations into and prosecution of corrupt conduct.

Localisation  

Ms Justice Akuffo said it was the expectation of the Judicial Service that the unit would be localised, so that complaints could be lodged on a more manual basis, since not everyone was literate enough to lodge a formal complaint.

She expressed the hope that there would be an officer at every court whose responsibility would be to receive such complaints and pass them on to the appropriate offices.

“It is not everybody who can go on the Internet or write a formal complaint; therefore, we must bring it closer to the people, so that every complaint gets the attention that it deserves,” she added.

She reaffirmed the commitment of the service to address and eradicate corruption from within the ranks of the Judiciary, saying: “We will uproot corruption wherever it is found and at whatever level it is.”

“We will continually explore more and more effective responses and effective penalties, so that, indeed, we will eradicate corruption,” she stressed.

Ms Justice Akuffo encouraged court users to make use of the Public Complaints Unit by forwarding their major or minor complaints about the conduct of the staff and judges of the courts to the Supervising High Court judge.
 
Commendation  

The Central Regional Minister, Mr Kwamena Duncan, in his remarks, commended the Judicial Service for its hard work and commitment to the fight against corruption.
 
Citing the recent Tiger Eye investigations on some judges and the actions taken by the Judicial Service to address the issues, he said the service had succeeded in building the confidence level of the citizenry in the service.

“The Judicial Service is the foundation that holds the country together and anything that affects its negatively spells doom for the nation as a whole,” he added.

Mr Duncan called for a public relations outfit that would speak on behalf of judges, explaining that since judges could not speak for themselves, there was the need to have an office that would speak on their behalf.

Complaint

The Supervising High Court Judge, Mr Justice Kwasi Dapaa, said staff of the service had been adequately trained to receive complaints from aggrieved persons.
 
He said complaints may be made orally or in written form at the unit, adding that minor complaints such as rudeness of a staff member or aggravated complaints such as corruption could be filed at the unit.

 Mr Justice Dapaa emphasised the need for corruption to be eradicated, saying “the responsibility of eradicating corruption must begin with every individual”.

“Corruption is endemic and we can put an end to it only if we decide to keep away from it and do the right things,” he said.  

For his part, the Omanhen of the Ogua Traditional Area, Osabarima Kwesi Atta II, bemoaned the prevalence of corruption in society.

“Corruption has become a norm in our society and we must take into consideration the fact that if we want to build a society that is free and fair, we must put an end to the bane of corruption,” he said.

He urged the citizens to lead lives free from corruption, adding that if the Judicial Service had put measures in place to ensure the service was free from corruption, the citizenry must also work to fight corruption.

Earlier, the Chief Justice had paid courtesy calls on Mr Duncan, Osabarima Kwesi Atta and the Omanhen of the Edina Traditional Area, Nana Kodwo Condua VI.

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