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BUDGET DEBATE: Bond laments “pittance” for justice sector

APNU MP James Bond

APNU parliamentarian James Bond has lamented the $1.8B allocated for the justice sector in this year’s $220B national budget calling it “a pittance.”

Speaking during the budget debate on Monday Bond said he was happy about the five percent increase in GDP but as a lawyer he was less than thrilled with the “pittance” earmarked for the justice sector.

“Budget 2014 allocates $111,655,000 to the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions, $1,410,018,000 to the Supreme Court of Judicature and 288,401,000 to the Ministry of Legal Affairs. Totaled it amounts to $1,810,074,000 or 0.8 percent of the total $220B national budgetary pot bake,” Bond stated.

He added that paltry sums of monies are spent on infrastructure and equipment and some $11.3M is allotted to the Ministry of Legal Affairs and such funds are for the rehabilitation of a driveway, purchase of vehicle and purchases of furniture and equipment.

“The Supreme Court will be allocated $216,270,000 and it is proposed to be spent on the construction of a Land Court, rehabilitation of courtrooms and payment of retention, purchases of a vehicle, completion and construction of Magistrates Courts and purchases of furniture and equipment. Do expect courts with sewage seeping through the floors, do expect courts that aren’t sound proof, courts with no robing rooms, inadequate seating.

To the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions the sum of $5M is proposed to be spent on the purchase of furniture and equipment.”

According to the APNU MP, the allocations have the effect of strangling the sector and pegging back little gains achieved by the Justice Improvement Programme.

Bond said there was no word on several critical areas such as enhancing the quality of judicial decisions; the protection of the young and vulnerable when they become enveloped by the sector; focused financial investment and management of the Legal Aid Programme; drastically Reducing the time it takes for victims to be compensated; nor the introduction of IT and e-protocols throughout the sector.

Bond, who has been practicing law for the past 12 years, also called for the introduction of a Judicial Research Assistants Programme.

“These are the things that APNU would have spent an additional $1B on to ensure that the system is truly accessible, truly strong,” he declared.

“A good budget for the judicial services sector must be measured by one thing only and that is, does it substantially elevate the performance of the Judiciary? I give a resounding no in this instance.”