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Government denies 23,000 people timely justice

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By Wezzie Gausi:

About 23,000 poor people are struggling to get timely justice from the courts through the Legal Aid Bureau (LAB) because of lack of resources, The Daily Times has learned.

The bureau has 23,000 people seeking justice against 25 lawyers, which translates into one lawyer serving 700 people.

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LAB Executive Director Masauko Chamkakala said this Wednesday when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament in Lilongwe.

He said bureau officials were struggling because of lack of financial and material resources.

In the 2021-22 financial year, for example, the bureau requested K2 billion from the government but the Ministry of Finance approved K674 million only.

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“The trimmed budget has negatively affected our operations in terms of legal representation. We remain one of the government departments that are least funded and we have a very small staff. We always have volumes of work to do but our financial base is too low.

“Worse still, people think that services offered by Legal Aid Bureau are entirely free-of-charge but that is not true. Let it be known that people are supposed to contribute a little money they can manage and the monies help in operations of the bureau,” Chamkakala said.

Pac Chairperson Shadreck Namalomba said the bureau raised valid concerns.

“We understand that the institution does not have its own vehicles but is renting vehicles to help it in its operations, which is very costly. They are understaffed. We, as a committee, will make sure that we help in lobbying for more funds,” Namalomba said.

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