Systematic failure Kofi Bentil blames judicial corruption on Ghana’s judicial service

Kofi Bentil’s comments came in the wake of a scandal involving some judges captured on tape allegedly taking bribes and extorting money from litigants.

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According to the vice president of policy think tank, IMANI Ghana, the worse nature of the country’s judicial system exposes judges to engage in corrupt acts.

Kofi Bentil’s comments came in the wake of a scandal involving some judges captured on tape allegedly taking bribes and extorting money from litigants.

Kofi Bentil, Vice President of IMANI Ghana play

Kofi Bentil, Vice President of IMANI Ghana

 

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Thirty-four (34) of the suspected culprits are said to be judges at the High, the Circuit and the District courts. So far twenty-two (22) of the judges have been suspended while investigations have begun on twelve others.

Kofi Bentil, speaking to the media in a separate interview at the Ghana Bar Association conference said there have been instances where justices have not been paid for several months – a situation that, more or less, makes judges prone to bribery.

He however added that the case is not a justification for bribe taking.

“What we are dealing with now is symptomatic; it is the system of a deeper systemic problem and my personal view is that the problem is with the judicial service. I have friends who are judges and for eight months, they haven’t been paid after being posted. How is that explainable? We have situations where our judge friends tell us that by becoming a judge your life is restricted. But clearly, the way you are managed and handled by the judicial system leaves you more or less to the vagaries of the profession. The negatives of it... it is not an accuse... let's take a holistic view of the issue,” he said.

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Mr Bentil advised that better structures be put in place to “reduce the need and pressure which makes judges vulnerable to these things.”

According to him, “If we have a quicker, effective and efficient systems, it will remove what we call ‘bottlenecking’. Bottlenecking is where people create constrictions within the system which require you to open up and you open them up by greasing those people. Those constrictions, if the system is good, will not be there because somebody will make sure that some judicial officer does not create that constriction. Why do dockets get missing, why do we have all these problems lawyers would have to go through for which reason they through caution to the wind saying even if I dealt with this in another way all these things will not matter.”

The lawyer stated that the issue should be dealt with topically but, “we should look at the systematic issues that create the symptoms and the systematic issues mostly reside in the judicial system.”

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Justice Georgina Theodora Woode - Chief Justice play

Justice Georgina Theodora Woode - Chief Justice

 

He wondered why the judicial service cannot provide better incentives for the judges and the judicial officers despite the increase in court fees.

“Recently, the fees for courts and legal action have been dramatically increased. And with all that income coming in, I really don’t know why we cannot modernize our judiciary and do the simple things that will remove some of these problems. If we did I think that will be the start of removing corruption generally, at least reducing it. I think people don’t go to the bar or become lawyers or go to the bench to become judges so they will collect bribes. Nobody will risk their life,” Mr Bentil suggested.

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