Liberia: Cash-Strapped Judiciary Leaves Judges Without Salary For Three Months
Monrovia – Judges of Circuit Courts have reportedly not received their salaries for the past three months thereby constraining them to express concerns about the challenges that are likely to hamper the dispensation of justice.
Some judges, who spoke to FrontPageAfrica on Thursday, August 8, on the basis of anonymity, said the situation is troubling for the country’s Judicial System.
The concerns are becoming public following reports that Chief Justice Francis Korkpor on the same day reportedly alarmed over major financial constraints facing the country’s Judiciary Branch of Government.
There was a closed-door meeting held on Thursday at the Temple of Justice in which the Chief Justice reportedly told the judges and magistrates about the financial challenges dogging the Judiciary.
Sources at the Judiciary have also said that if the financial turbulence is not abated urgently the day-day operations of the courts will be disrupted.
The source added that Chief Justice Korkpor was very frank to have told the Judges that the Judiciary was facing a major financial constraint and will not be in the position to provide them the necessary logistics to run the courts.
There are also unconfirmed reports that Judges have not been paid for the last three months, another source said, adding that Chief Justice Korkpor told the Judges that based on the current financial constraint they should improvise at their various courts.
The source also added that the Chief Justice allegedly urged the Judges to provide for themselves in order to perform their duties.
“This meeting was very disappointing for us; we have not taken pay for the last three months now, we have vehicles in our care to fuel and other expenses to cover now we can’t engage in business the Chief Justice is telling us to go and improvise to run the court, how?” said the source, who disclosed that all of them left the meeting frustrated.
“We’re not allowed to engage in any form of commercial activities; we are not allowed to do another job while we are judges. We’re not being paid, how would we survive? The Judiciary must be a place of honor and Judges must be treated with respect.”
The pending budgetary allotment for the Judiciary for the 2019/2020 fiscal year is US$17,943,029, which is an increment of US$200,000. Last year’s budget was US$17,705,498, but it is unclear which exact amount was disbursed to the Judiciary as holistic concerns about a cash-strapped government remain a massive concerns.
This is the first time in more than 10 years that Judges have expressed concerns and disclosed to the media issues about their delayed salaries.
There have always been frequent complaints by judges about low salaries and benefits while some have advocated for a better retirement package.
The current retirement benefits of Judges, which is half of their salaries, have been deemed as inadequately by judges. These judges have claimed that it would not cater to them during retirement.
“The Judiciary Canon prohibits Judges from engaging in business therefore we don’t engage in business because of this, we need an attractive retirement benefit to cater to us when retired,” said Judge Roosevelt Willie President of the National Trial Judges Association of Liberia (NTJAL) at an occasion marking the opening of court early this year.
The troubling salary news hovering over the Judiciary has surfaced as the circuit courts across the country prepare to open for the August 2019 term of Court.
And it is unclear where else judges will get the financial resources to operate their respective courts.
Speculations about the lack of independence in Liberia’s judiciary have heightened over the years as many independent international reports point to loopholes in the country’s legal system.
When FrontPageAfrica contacted the Judicial Public Information Sector for clarification about the reported salary delay of judges, the Director of the department Darryl Ambrose Nmah could not pick his phone. His phone rang endlessly many times FPA called.
A second telephone communication including calls and text message to Mr. Nmah’s deputy, Zito Slebah, was met with arrogant resistance as Slebah demanded that FrontPageAfrica names its sources before he could give a response. He then later said that he could not comment because he didn’t have the authority to speak to the issue without the directive of his boss.