MPs ask more funds to Legal Aid Bureau: ‘To assist Malawians who cannot afford private lawyer’

Legal Affairs Committee of parliament has asked Treasury to increase resources towards the Legal Aid Fund to allow more Malawians who cannot afford a private lawyer access free legal services.

many Malawians are not familiar with justice-related services offered by various institutions, including the Office of the Ombudsman, Malawi Human Rights Commission and Legal Aid Bureau.

The Legal Aid Bureau was established under Section 3 of the Legal Aid Act of 2010 to provide legal aid services to vulnerable people in need of such services.

But the Act only became operational and independent of the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in 2015.

Chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee Kezzie Msukwa, presenting a report in parliament from the cluster committee on national budget, said his committee noted with concern that since the establishment of the Legal Aid Bureau in 2015, the Bureau has never received adequate funding.

“For example, in the 2017/2018 approved budget of K500 million, only K285 million, which is slightly over 50 per cent, was disbursed,” Msukwa said.

He said the 2018/2019 Financial Year, the approved budget was K730 million but the actual amount disbursed was K483 million only.

Msukwa noted that funding for the 2019/2020 Financial Year has been pegged at K1.2 billion against an ideal budget of K2.2 billion.

“This will have many devastating consequences. For example, the Bureau initially planned to handle at least 3600  cases during the financial year,” he told Parliament.

“This number, however, will be reduced to 1800. And if we all agree that Malawi needs to be free from corruption, then the Minister will seriously consider allocating more money to this Vote,” Msukwa said, adding that  “ corruption is eroding this country of much needed resources. “

Nyasa Times understands the bureau has a depleted fleet of vehicles, paper work challenges and that it has inadequate lawyers.

The Legal Aid Bureau is mandated to provide legal aid services to persons of insufficient means who cannot afford private legal services.

The country’s justice delivery system has often come under fire for being expensive for the local masses to acquire legal representation.

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