A talk with the CHRAJ boss: The Highlights
Justice is a process of ensuring every party in a dispute is given a fair hearing. In an era of a heightened emphasis on human rights, this means a unique place of important for an institution like the Commission on Human Right and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).
It was established in 1993 by an Act 456 of the Parliament of Ghana as directed by Article 216 of the 1992 Ghana constitution.
Even better, at CHRAJ a party or complainant can get justice and fairness for free. Which is why it appears to be the choice option for addressing grievances and abuses.
By October 2015, CHRAJ had received a total 7,219 complaints, a whopping 6,932 of them were human rights issues.
Which is why one would expect that CHRAJ would have offices in all 260 districts in the country. Yet this unfortunately, is not the case – all because of the age-old excuse of budgetary constraints.
Take 2015 for example. Despite an allocation of more than GH¢15,240,000 from the government, only GH¢450,000 had been received by August – of course apart from the salaries of its staff. Fuel for transport had to be paid by some of its staff.
As a testament that this appears to be a trend, 2014 was no different.
In an interaction with the head of CHRAJ, Joseph Whittal he stressed that this pro-poor and cost-effective system of justice delivery needs to be taken seriously.
“If the courts are expensive, if the ordinary man cannot even pay for transport to come to court and if he comes to court he has to pay filing fees that is beyond his reach, then we have to begin to change our tact and begin to resource the institutions that can fall back and soak the heat”.
Apartment from an ideal six million cedis required to run CHRAJ, the commission is also hoping to get approval of some 1.5 million cedis to rehabilitate their old building which was ravaged by fire back in 2014.
Justifying why CHRAJ should be given its full allocation this year, commissioner Whittal offerred a view about development which he wants to see dominate national conversations.
“Brick and mortar development must give way to people-centered social development …you can build all the schools…but if your approach is not people-centered, you leave out those issues that actually affect the people; you’ve done nothing”.
The 1992 constitution stipulates that CHRAJ is an independent body. But this provision, Joseph Whittal believes is incomplete. For him the independence of CHRAJ is not complete unless it is linked to financial independence.
The current regime where it’s budget goes through the scrutiny of the Finance Ministry undermines its independence considerable, he noted.
“…the budgets of independent constitutional bodies should not go through the ministry of finance….CHRAJ still has to go through the Ministry of Ffinance and be subjected to budgetary cuts, ceilings and all that”
“…how independent are you when you are not independent financially?”, he opened the conversation to debate.