BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, December 20, 2022 (SKNIS) – The Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs have been granted budgetary increase totaling $2.5 million for the year 2023 to implement a number of initiatives that will modernize access to justice, speed up legal processes, and fuel and invigorate the Attorney General’s Office, thereby greasing the engine of government.
“Good governance costs money. To implement the structures necessary to provide the transparency, accountability, and anti-corruption mechanisms necessary to transform our Federation into a modern, responsible, mature, sustainable small island state, we had to budget for the offices of the Special Prosecutor who will enforce the Anti-Corruption Act, the Information Commissioner who will administer the Freedom of Information Act and the Ombudsman who will be responsible for investigating undue delays, abuses of power and unlawful acts of the government,” said Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, the Honourable Garth Wilkin during his presentation on the 2023 Budget on Monday, December 19, 2022.
With respect to the administration of justice, Attorney General Wilkin said the 2023 allocations will also allow for the Director of Public Prosecution’s Office to be equipped with the much-needed human and technological resources.
The Attorney General said, “For too long the office was ignored, which has caused delays in the administration of justice and has cost the Treasury millions of dollars from lawsuits from persons imprisoned for way too long awaiting the hearing of their criminal matters. This stops now and the budget increase reflects the people’s Government’s plan to strengthen the DPP’s Office and the Administration of Justice to eliminate these unnecessary delays.”
Additionally, the increase in the Budget allocation for the Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs will aid in the proper staffing as well as the general upkeep of key legal buildings.
“The Office must therefore be properly staffed with professionals and support staff who are inspired, invigorated and properly compensated. We believe that the resources sought in 2023 will allow us to professionalize the Office, create better efficiency in its operations and enhance our productivity. We also want to expand our legal advice to statutory corporations. This can only be done by professionalizing the Office.
“We have to fix the Sir Lee L. Moore Judicial & Legal Services Complex which was allowed to deteriorate under the last administration, such that it had to be closed in June 2022 because persons working in the building started getting sick from the excessive mold contamination. The roof is bad. The interior walls are bad. The basement floods. It is a train wreck caused by a lack of maintenance. We have therefore allocated EC$1.7 million to get our main Court House opened, fingers crossed by June 2023,” the Attorney General said.
As part of its bid to eliminate the costly practice of renting private properties, the Ministry will in 2023 move ahead with plans for the construction of a new Ministry of Justice & Legal Affairs Headquarters on the Bay Road on Government lands.
The new facility will house the Attorney General’s Office and Chambers, the DPP’s Office and Chambers, the Access to the Justice Bureau, and the Law Commission.
The construction of the Ministry’s new headquarters is expected to save the Government EC$466,800 per year.