Budget OK for AG, Judiciary
Published 21st May 2007, 2:51pm
Two judicial-related sets of proposals for expenditure in the 2007/08 Budget were approved yesterday (Thursday, 17 May) by Finance Committee of the Legislative Assembly.
The appropriations were for the Attorney General and for Cabinet on behalf of the Chief Justice for use in the financial year beginning 1 July 2007 and ending 30 June 2008.
As is the case with proposed appropriations for Cabinet, the portfolios and ministries, the approvals for the AG and Chief Justice will be sent back to the House as part of the Appropriation (July 2007 to June 2008) Bill, 2007 when the meeting of Finance Committee ends. This also applies to proposed appropriations of Public Accounts Committee and the Oversight Committee of the LA. Finance Committee has taken a break and will resume meeting Thursday, 24 May, until all items are finished.
Usually, all items sent up to the House as part of the bill are passed by the LA into law, authorising government expenditure.
The largest item in the approved appropriations for the Attorney General is $2.5 million going for 'Prosecution Services'. This is followed by 'Policy Advice to the Attorney General', and 'Law Teaching and Publications', at $1.1 million each.
The largest item among approvals for the Chief Justice is $3.6 million for 'Support for Court Proceedings'. A Summary Court building will be constructed at the cost of $3 million. 'Personal Emoluments for the Judiciary' was voted $1.3 million, and 'Judiciary Expenses' received $1.2 million.
The vote of $919,000 for legal aid services attracted much debate as members of the House were dissatisfied with the high annual cost of this facility compared to other jurisdictions. Attorney General, Hon. Samuel Bulgin, stated that the British Virgin Islands spent US$79,000 for an entire year of legal aid services.
Additionally, the MLAs were unhappy because it appears that much of the legal aid money is spent on the services of overseas counsel rather than on the services of Caymanian lawyers.
As he did on Wednesday during discussion on a supplementary proposal to provide bridging money for the legal aid services, Mr. Bulgin assured the House that these concerns were being addressed. He said the system for granting legal aid is being re-examined, and the Law Reform Commission is currently reviewing the Legal Aid Law with a view to making changes.