UNDP furnishes offices of Ghana Legal Aid Scheme
UNDP presented office supplies to the Legal Aid Scheme during a colorful event in Kumasi with a view to supporting the efforts of the Government of Ghana in justice delivery in the country.
These comprise motorcycles, furniture, photocopiers, scanners, computers and accessories valued at $300,000. “This is the single, biggest donation ever received by the Legal Aid Scheme in more than 25 years of its establishment.”, noted Mr. A. Y. Seini, the Executive Director of the Legal AID Scheme.
“I have been without an office chair and computer after years of working with the Legal Aid Scheme”, bemoaned Lizzy-Pearl Addison, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Scheme in Kumasi. “Hopefully, with this presentation, I can have a complementary set of office supplies”, she added. This sentiment mirrors the general challenge that confronts the Legal Aid Scheme which is established to offer legal services to the poor and disadvantaged.
This donation comes on the heels of a baseline survey of the justice sector commissioned by the Ministry of Justice in 2012 that showed that 79% of Ghanaians did not know of the existence of the Legal Aid Scheme or the services it provides. In effect, 79% of Ghanaians are not aware that if they are unable to afford legal services, the state will not only provide it but also has a mandated institution with professional staff that provides free legal services to the poor and vulnerable.
“The Legal Aid Scheme requires a lot of capital injection to make it functional”, remarked Dr. Dominic Ayine, Deputy Minister of Justice and Attorney General. “Therefore, in line with government’s commitment to make the scheme work, it entered into agreement with the UNDP under the United Nations Development Assistance Framework to solicit support for its operations”.
The UNDP Country Director, Mr. Dominic Sam stated that strengthening the rule of law is a key component of the UN’s mission to enhance security, foster development and protect human right. For UNDP, therefore, access to justice and the Legal Aid Scheme is mandatory. “Justice cannot be a commodity that is available only to those who can afford to pay for it. We should strive to ensure that it is available, and is a source of comfort to each and every Ghanaian", he emphasized.
Prior to the donation, UNDP had been strengthening the Legal Aid Scheme in diverse ways to make access to justice handy to the everyday Ghanaian and improve the relevance and functions of the Scheme. These include the development of a five year strategic plan, operational and training manuals for the personnel, communication strategy to help reach out to those who really need the services, and training of staff to improve the efficiency and quality of services provided to the clients.
A Supreme Court Judge and chairman of the Legal Aid Board, Mr. Justice William Atuguba reminded the state about the importance of social justice and asked government to help offer the Legal Aid Scheme an entrenched constitutional status. He hinted that the scheme will soon be an independent constitutional body since government has assented to a proposal in this regard. He concluded, “unless we accept that good governance is the key for sustainable development and empower state institutions, Africa will continue to be in an unbroken decadence and retrogression."
UNDP’s support to the Legal Aid Scheme is in line with its current strategic direction which emphasises assistance that impacts directly on the poor and disadvantaged in society. Presenting the items to the Government of Ghana, Mr. Dominic Sam recognised the tireless effort of the chairman of the Legal Aid Board and thanked the Government of Ghana for providing the regulatory framework and operationalizing the Legal Aid Scheme.
Dr. Ayine, who received the donation on behalf of the Government of Ghana expressed the appreciation of government to UNDP and asked the beneficiaries to put the items to good use and maintain them regularly.