Millions of dollars have being expended to pay secretarial staff, rent a building, and other facilities for a Law Reform Commission (LRC), which is virtually non-performing.
The LRC is a statutory body mandated by the Law Reform Act of 2016. According to the law, the LRC shall consist of three to seven members including a Chairperson, who is appointed by the President, following consultation with the Minister of Legal Affairs.
The appointment of the members is vital to the function of the Commission which is mandated to review, simplify, modify and systematically develop the law. Several million dollars have been expended in the past two years towards setting up the LRC, yet it is without members.
The expenditure has come under intense criticism from former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall.
According to Nandlall, the Government is expending close to a million dollars every month to rent the top flat of a building located at Robb Street. He said that based on disclosures made in the National Assembly, the institution cost taxpayers a total of $12,495,000 in salaries and $5,950,000 in rent, totalling $18,445,000 up to June 2018, but has done no visible work whatsoever.
“As I indicated, there is no Commissioner appointed, therefore, the Law Reform Commission cannot be functioning without Commissioners. So for the past two years we have been paying persons, which include legal clerks, typist and a driver, millions and millions of taxpayers’ monies to do absolutely nothing. This is wanton wastage,” Nandlall had declared.
Nandlall had pointed out that a written agreement of tenancy dated 14th November 2017, revealed that the Ministry of Legal Affairs rented the 2nd and 3rd flats (not the 1st flat, which is normally the high rent yielding flat) of a building located at 59 Robb Street, Bourda for the whopping sum of $850,000 per month.
Attorney General Basil Williams had previously disclosed that the agreement was signed between the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Michael and Michelle Wharton. The rental is from December 1, 2017 to November 30, 2018. He revealed that staff hired so far includes a Legal Officer, with a salary of $700,000; two Legal Clerks, $150,000 each; three typists at $130,000 each; two office assistants, $100,000 each; a cleaner, $75,000 and one driver, $120,000.
As part of the agreement, the government has to pay its own electricity while the landlord pays the water. Additionally, the agreement stipulates a security deposit of $1.7M.
Government also agreed to pay the first two months of the tenancy before occupation of the building.
According to Williams, the Commission is in its final stages of readiness. He outlined that persons have been interviewed for the position of Commissioners while staff have been hired.
Kaieteur News visited the office of the Commission yesterday; two staffers were present in an almost empty office space located at the top flat of the building. The staffers said that they could not divulge any information. Any questions, they said, must be directed to the Legal Affairs Minister. The bottom flat of the building is occupied by a copying and printing business. This publication reached out to Minister Williams for further explanation. He declined to comment, stating only that he was heading to a meeting.
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