– Chief Justice
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor has said that the budgetary allocation to the judiciary in the last decade and now, is grossly inadequate to meet its requirements in setting up new courts, improving infrastructure and instituting reform in the judicial sector.
In the 2018/2019 budget, out of US$562.4 million, US$16,965,505 was allotted to the entire judiciary, which comprises 15 circuit courts throughout the country and hundreds of magisterial courts, besides employees. The budgetary allocation to the Judiciary stands at 3 percent of the total budget.
“Long before and after the civil war and now, the budget of the judiciary has remained extremely low compared with the other branches of the government,” Justice Korkpor noted when he delivered his address at the opening of the October 2018 Term of the Supreme Court of Liberia.
“How does the government expect the judiciary to construct more courts and improve infrastructure for a speedy dispensation of justice?” Justice Korkpor asked, in the presence of the other branches of the government that included President George Weah, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, Senate Pro-Tempore Albert Chie, and Speaker Bhofal Chambers.
“We are already overburdened,” he said, referring to the budgetary allocation for 2018-2019. “Our desire to undertake more reform programs is seriously hampered by the lack of adequate budgetary allocation.”
Highlighting constraints in the judiciary, the Chief Justice said, “As I have said time and time again, this does not mean that the running cost of the judiciary is any less than the running cost of the other branches of government.”
The 2017-2018 budget for the judiciary, in the amount of US$16,937,505, was increased by US$28,000 in the 2018-2019 installment, to US$16,965,505.
According to Korkpor, the operational structure of the judiciary “is to make the point that the activities in this branch of government are quite enormous and the need to reform so critical that appropriate budgetary allocations are required.”
Korkpor explained that since he took the helm of the judiciary, considerable progress has been made. “No one can deny this because the evidence abounds in the number of judicial facilities constructed throughout the country, the progress and policies initiated to build capacities and improve the systems. And the employment of additional judicial workers to mend judicial premises and cope with increasing workloads.”
“We are committed to continuing in this direction in order to bring meaningful reforms within the judiciary,” Korkpor assured his audience. “But, let me hasten to say that, as judicial reform is an evolutionary process, we still need to do more in spite of the many gains we have made,” Korkpor stressed.
Several judges have over the last several years slammed the government for allocating “shoestring” budgets to the judiciary.
One of the judges (name withheld) said, “Budget allocation for the judiciary is of serious concern. In as far as the Supreme Court is concerned, the government is not providing sufficient budget and, time and time again, development partners have to intervene to seek sufficient allocation of budget.”