Once again, the government of President Akufo-Addo wrongly takes full credit over the automated courts system in Ghana without any indication of willingness to acknowledge the work done by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) governments over the years. It is important to establish that the framework for the modernization of the courts for the purpose of delivering justice, is inherent in the Constitution, 1992. Indeed, this position was greatly affirmed in the review of 2002 in the Fast Track High Court case when the illegality of the Fast Track High Court was appealed.
Under Rawlings in the 1990s
- Prior to the first New Patriotic Party (NPP) government in January 2001, a lot of work was done in finding ways to introduce technology in the justice delivery system. This matter should be settled with the question, how possible was it for a government to pilot a project in its second month in office in March 2001, if nothing was done ahead of that period?
- In a thesis paper titled Ghana’s Court Automated System (Fast Track Courts), submitted to the College of Architecture and Planning, Faculty of Architecture and Building Technology of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi by Kwabena Asare Opoku in the year 2009, this paragraph stands out:
“The mechanization and automation of the country’s Court system involving Courtrooms, Registries, docket management, and electronic library were studied under the National Good Governance Program. The objective was improving infrastructure capacity to enhance service delivery through replacing manual processes in doing business in the Court with ICT and recording systems in the Courtrooms. Training is also organized for all categories of staff including Judges to be able to cope with the new technologies and changes. In 2001, a pilot project for a fully automated Court system linking the registry, bailiff, cashier, and Courtrooms unto a central server was implemented in Accra. The project was called the Fast Tract Court.”
Under Kuffour in the 2000s
- The “Fast Track” High Court of Ghana (FTC) was established with computers, radio recording, and case management facilities designed for speedy and effective trial. The New Humanitarian, in a feature article of September 17th 2002 under an article titled Focus on Fast Track Court System writes on Fast Track Courts as “After years [emphasis mine] of consideration and research, Ghana automated the three High Courts in Accra, on a pilot basis, in March 2001. Known as Fast Track Courts (FTCs) these three are computerized and work on a wireless local network (LAN) with and internet connection”.
- The above references provide sufficient evidence to the effect that the move to automate our Courts was born before the New Patriotic Party had the mandate of the people. The projects inherited by the then Kufour administration resulted in the establishment of the Fast Track High Courts which was used in the trial of high-profile political cases at the time.
- For the records and in order to affirm the earlier records stated which points to work predating the Kufour administration, the late Mr. Victor Selormey, the then former Deputy Finance Minister of the Republic of Ghana was dragged to court over a contract he was alleged to have signed in 1998 to the tune of USD1.1 million for consultancy services for the Court Computerization Project. What this reveals clearly is that as far back as the mid-1990s, work had begun to ensure that our Courts were computerized and eventually automated. This made it possible for the project to be piloted three months after the Kufour administration took office, an exercise which begun in March 2001.
- Not much is reported of the extent of work done in the area of automation since the establishment of the FTC in the year 2001. Checks from budget statements presented through to the year 2008 have barely anything on automating the courts of Ghana.
Under Prez Mills from 2009
- Interestingly, in the year 2009, delivering the Budget and Economic Policy statement by then Finance Minister Dr, Kwabena Duffour in March 2009, the automation of the courts of Ghana featured. Paragraph 871 of the Budget Statement under Outlook for 2009 projected “… A significant number of Magistrate Courts will be automated while the construction of the Wa Courts Complex, procurement of equipment for Courts in Accra, Tema and Kumasi would be completed.” Following from the concluding part of this statement, it may be worthy to further enquire if the procurement of equipment for the courts stated were for the purposes of automation which could go further to then establish that the then Kufour administration made some efforts in that regard.
- In October 2011, then President, the late Professor John Evans Atta Mills cut sod for the construction of the Law Court Complex in Accra. This building was thereafter supervised, completed, and commissioned in 2015 by former President John Dramani Mahama. The project cost was estimated at USD50 million with $5 million injected into the e-Justice project well ahead of its commissioning for operation. The aim was to ensure three video-conferencing and telepresence equipment to enable the Judicial Service to conduct face-to-face interaction with judges in Accra, Kumasi, and Takoradi.
Under Mahama from 2013
- Reporting in the Budget and Economic Policy of 2015 on Performance in 2015 and Outlook for 2016 under Court Administration Programme, paragraphs 810 and 811 provided some very useful statistics of the John Dramani Mahama administration. Then Finance Minister, Mr. Seth Terkper presents [paragraph 810] “Mr. Speaker, in 2016 the Service disposed of 98,635 cases against an annual target of 95,500 cases nationwide”. This exceeded the annual target by over 3,000 cases which were made possible due to the ease of delivering justice following the innovations implemented. He proceeds, “In 2016, the Service expects that a total of 101,448 cases will be tried and judgments delivered. [Paragraph 811] “The computerization of the courts is 94 percent complete whilst the services of 28 percent of courts nationwide were automated. In 2016, court automation will be expanded to cover 96 courts out of a total of 346 courts.”
- The 2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework for 2017-2019 by the Judicial Service noted that 90% of Courts were computerized by 2015 rising to 96% by June 2016 with projections for 98%, 98%, and 99% for 2017, 2018, and 2019 respectively. It notes also that by June 2016, automation of the courts was 28 percent done with projections of 34%, 43%, and 55% projections for 2017, 2018, and 2019 respectively.
- It is important to note that the work done by the Mills/Mahama administration made it possible for the first ever live broadcast in the courtroom to be done in the 2012 Election Petition case. Subsequent to that, the John Mahama administration amended CI 47 the High Court Civil Procedure Rule of 2004 to allow for evidence to be taken through video links. This made it possible in the recent Election Petition of 2020 for evidence to be taken from Mr. Robert Mettle-Nunoo, 3rd Witness of H.E. John Dramani Mahama.
Under Nana Addo from 2017
- The 2018 Budget and Economic Policy statement found space for the word E-Justice Programme. Apart from that, nothing else was said. In 2019, we were told of the President launching an e-Transform Programme for the Law Court Complex built by the NDC. Apart from that, nothing else was heard about any programmes aimed at automating the courts.
- So if today, we wake up to the Nana Akufo-Addo government claiming to have been the brain behind the automation of Ghana’s Courts, I think there is the need to set the records. At least, as indicated in the text above, the possibility of telecasting the first-ever election petition brought to the Supreme Court by President Akufo-Addo in 2012, attests to the fact that work to automate the Courts preceded his administration. To decide to set aside these overwhelming records to place himself and the NPP as inventors and executors is only misleading and must be clearly defined as such.
Rockson-Nelson E.K. Dafeamekpor, Esq.
MP, South Dayi
Member, Constitutional, Legal & Parliamentary Affairs Committee
Parliament of Ghana.
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