June 29, 2017 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Legal Aid Board (LAB) has partnered with Ombudsman’s office in a quest to ensure proper case management and render justice to the people of Sierra Leone.
The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of case referrer was yesterday done in the conference room of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
Executive Director of LAB, Fatmata Clarie-Hanciles, said her office welcomes the partnership between the two institutions, adding that they have been referring lots of cases to the Ombudsman’s office prior to the appointment of the present Ombudsman but the issue of follow up has been a headache.
“The then Ombudsman was busy with the constitutional review process which caused lots of problems for LAB. We are now happy that Mr. Melron Nicol-Wilson, who is a highly experienced lawyer and somebody who started Legal Aid work in the country, is now the Ombudsman and ready to work with my office,” she said.
She said the partnership would ease the burden on the Legal Aid Board because they were now having over 100 people turning up in their various offices in the regions, adding that they were getting more civil cases particularly in the Western area per day.
“Most of the civil matters in my office are referred to the Office of the Ombudsman while some are settled. Matters pertaining people in authority, who for one reason or another misused the law by maltreating their employees, failing to meet obligations, among others, must be taken seriously,” he noted.
She promised that her office will give all needed support to the office of the Ombudsman to protect the public, noting that in other countries, the office of the Ombudsman is the public protector.
The LAB Executive Director said her institution will be doing referrals to the Ombudsman’s office at the same time collaborates in its outreach activities.
She revealed that LAB was now established in 12 districts across the country and offices in 10 locations, with 16 lawyers including army of paralegals, outreach officers, and community officers.
Ombudsman, Lawyer Melron Nicol-Wilson, said he was honoured to sign an MOU with LAB, adding that some referral cases fall within his office’s mandate, but are most times reported to LAB.
“When I took office on May 2nd, this year, I realized that there were a huge number of complaints that are referred to my office which did not fall within my mandate,” he said.
He noted that some complaints fall within the mandate of the LAB which is why they wanted to have an official system to refer them and ensure that they are addressed.
He said the signing of the MOU will put a system wherein every complainant will be addressed by the appropriate institution.