CJ advocates financial independence of judiciary
The Chief Justice, Justice Gertrude Sackey Torkornoo, has bemoaned the lack of financial independence of the judiciary, saying it was negatively affecting the work of the judiciary and, ultimately, justice delivery.
Justice Torkornoo, who was speaking at the 2023 annual general meeting (AGM) of the Association of Magistrates and Judges Ghana (AMJG) yesterday, said although the 1992 Constitution protected the independence of the judiciary, the service had no control over its financial administration.
Quoting Article 127 (1) of the 1992 Constitution, the Chief Justice said the Constitution had categorically insulated all activities of the judiciary, including its financial administration, from external control to protect its independence due to the sensitivity of its functions.
“How can we be an independent arm of government if we do not have control over our finances? Is the constitutionally guaranteed institutional independence of the judiciary only a mirage?
“Can the institutional independence of the judiciary be asserted when we need clearance to engage staff, clearance to access money generated from court services, and clearance to procure any asset to do our work?” she queried.
The two-day 2023 AGM is on the theme: “A Financially Independent and Accountable Judiciary: The Key to Effective Justice Delivery”.
It was attended by judges and magistrates across the country, including Justices of the Supreme Court, and other notable personalities in the legal fraternity such as the Attorney-General (A-G) and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame; the President of the Ghana Bar Association, Yaw Acheampong Boafo, and the Director of the Ghana School of Law, Barima Oppong Kodie, aka Yaw Oppong.
Justice Torkornoo said inadequate financing and the lack of financial autonomy had been thorny issues that had bedevilled the judiciary way before she joined the bench as a Justice of the High Court in 2004.
She referenced the recent GBA conference in Cape Coast where President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo mentioned an increase in the financial support for anti-graft institutions to tackle corruption, but said such monumental increment had unfortunately not been extended to the Judiciary.
“While funding for certain institutions had been increased in hundreds of percentages, the percentage increase for the judiciary was noted to be a little over three per cent.
The level of financial support for our work ought to increase exponentially not only in quantum, but also in scope,” she said.
The Chief Justice promised that she would make the quest for financial independence of the judiciary a cornerstone of her administration as part of her overall vision to build a modernised judiciary to better serve the people of the country.
The A-G, Mr Dame, said although the Constitution was explicit in guaranteeing financial autonomy for the judiciary, its implementation had been fraught with challenges due to budgetary constraints which affected other institutions of state.
“As Minister of Justice, I undertake to ensure that the estimates of the administrative expenses of the Judiciary duly presented are duly protected and satisfied by the state, but this, of course, is subject to budgetary constraints,” he said.Nevertheless, he said, the government, through the District Assemblies Common Fund, had invested heavily in improving the infrastructure of the judiciary by constructing 100 courthouses and 121 residential units for the judiciary across the country.
The government, he added, had further invested heavily in other institutions connected to the justice delivery system, including the A-G’s Department, with the construction of the Law House Complex.
He said the 12-storey Law House Complex, which would accommodate the office of the A-G, would be completed and inaugurated by the end of this year.
Generation of funds
The President of the AMJG, Justice Henry Kwofie, said apart from inadequate financing, judges and magistrates were also grappling with delayed allowances for essential items such as fuel, clothing and books, a situation that had left them worse off.
On ways to boost the finances of the judiciary, Justice Kwofie said the service must be allowed to retain about 60 per cent of its internally generated funds (IGF) instead of the current 30 per cent.
The Director of the Ghana School of Law advocated that a certain percentage of money retrieved from financial crimes after judgments by the courts should be retained by the judiciary to help improve its finances.