Re: Uneasy calm in Judicial Service
The attention of the Judicial Service has been drawn to a story at page 9 of your Wednesday, March 9, 2011 edition, under the above heading. The story alleged that there is uneasiness and disquiet among staff of the Judicial Service, because of directives from the Judicial Council to “sanction all judges pursuing further studies at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) without permission.”
The headline of the story, sensational as it was, does not do justice to the facts of the matter. It is indeed, equally surprising, that your paper failed to contact the Judicial Service for its side of the story, before going ahead to make such a bold, but untrue, declaration in your publication.
The facts of this particular case are as follows:
1. Following a petition to the Honourable Lady Chief Justice, Mrs. Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, that some Career Magistrates had abandoned their courts and were pursuing the LLB Programme at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) without written permission from the Service, a Committee was established to look into the matter.
2. It must be noted that the cost of training for the Career Magistrates Programme is fully borne by the State, and upon successful completion of the course, the magistrates are bonded to serve the State for five years to defray the cost. Also, it is a basic Public Service regulation that employees require the formal permission of their employers to pursue a course.
3. The Committee found out in the course of its work that in all, 11 Career Magistrates were pursuing further studies without formal approval.
4. The findings of the Committee were handed over to the Appointments and Disciplinary Committee of the Service, whereupon the 11 Career Magistrates were invited to appear before the Committee to explain their actions.
5. The Committee, which sat on January 20, 2011 and February 3, 2011, found out that some of these magistrates were stationed in courts in faraway places such as Axim, Asesewa and Sefwi Wiawso. It therefore wondered how they could leave their stations by the official closing time of 4.00 p.m., to travel to Kumasi by road to attend lectures which commence at 5.00 p.m. Moreover, these Magistrates are aware that they are supposed to be on-call 24 hrs, and therefore have to be at their duty posts all the time, especially, on week days, unless they are on leave.
6. The Committee noted that the Magistrates were all on probation, and were therefore not allowed to start the LLB Programme without the express approval of their employers. It will interest you and your readers to know that some started work in January, and enrolled in the programme in August the same year.
While the Service encourages judges and staff to upgrade themselves, these magistrates did not seek formal permission to pursue the course, so the Committee recommended that they be sanctioned.
7. The Service is not averse to its staff embarking on career-development, and has indeed, encouraged many to take up distance learning to enhance their professional skills and competencies. Where staff have successfully concluded their course of study, they have been rewarded with promotion.
8. The Committee finally decided that the case of the 11 Career Magistrates was one of misconduct and indiscipline, and therefore Section 16 (d) of the Judicial Service Act should be applied, and that all the affected Magistrates were to suffer a “reduction in salary, that is, an immediate adjustment of salary to a lower point on the salary scale attached to the post.”
9. In addition to the above, the Chief Justice, in the exercise of her administrative authority, ordered their transfer to save the image of the institution, following persistent complaints from court users within the jurisdictions of the affected magistrates about their unsatisfactory attitude towards work.
It is clear from the facts, that the actions of these magistrates, who were on probation at the time they commenced the LLB Programme in Kumasi without official permission, was grave enough to warrant severe sanctions.
We believe your paper is committed to the pursuit of excellence at the workplace. We therefore encourage you to join hands with us to improve the performance and efficiency of members of the Bench, and staff of the Service, rather than resort to the defence of indiscipline and misconduct.
The media has a responsibility to ensure that the country wins the war against indiscipline and irresponsible conduct in the Public Service, and we will entreat you never to shirk this duty.
We believe you could have served the needs of your readers better, and done a more balanced story if you had sought our side of the story before going to press.
JUSTICE ALEX B.
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