The representatives of civil society held the view that the budget allocation to the Board is inadequate and believe this will severely affect the expansion drive it is embarking on.
One of the leaders of NSA, FodaySesayfrom the Kambia District said some Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are not performing and therefore do not deserve the amount of funds allocated to them. He added that he sees no reason why these MDAs should receive more money than the Board. ‘These MDAs do not produce results. They are contributing to poverty in the country,’ he said.
Another member of NSA, Bassie said the Board needs a permanent structure call home. Tamba a member of the District Budget Oversight Committee from Kono said, to cheers from the audience that the amount allocated to the Board is ridiculous and unrealistic.
The Executive Director, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles had earlier said at the hearing that for the 2017 budget, the Board had set itself to achieving the following: provide legal counsel and paralegals in the formal and informal justice sectors; Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services to mediate civil matters; organize community outreach through the Legal Empowerment Programme; Media outreach including developing Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials on the Legal Aid Act and services and establish Hotlines and Call Centers for those wishing to access our services.
‘We have achieved all of the above with the exceptions of Call Centres which is proving more costly as against the budget allocation for this period. As you all know, telephone operations carry a lot of costs and we need huge amount of money from government for it to be operational nationwide. We however continue to hold discussions with local telephone operators with a view to having a cost effective Hotline and Call Centres,’ she said.‘Also, since the inception of the Legal Aid Board, we are yet to receive funds to recruit even half of our staff. We need to recruit 190 Paralegals for all the chiefdoms and Local Courts.’
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said that the Board does not have funds to recruit Lawyers for all Magistrates and High Courts, Administrative staff and rent offices for Legal Aid Operations in all Districts. In addition, the Board needs support with vehicles and motor bikes for all it offices; programmes such as Monitoring of Remand Homes, Protection of Children under the Law, protection of vulnerable groups including women and children, Wheel Chair Users, Deaf and Dumb and to embark on massive Legal Education and sensitization to promote Rule of Law, Access to Justice and Good Governance for purposes of reducing the numbers behind bars and fulfilling Sierra Leone’s obligation under Goal 16(3) of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.