The call follows a joint assessment of the fifteen Bureaus in the capital Freetown by the Public Relations and the Outreach and Community Affairs Departments. The report shows that nine of the fifteen Bureaus are performing below expectations in terms of addressing the justice needs of the community.
The reports notes that the Bureaus in Wards 391, 393 and 394 covering Pipeline, Thompson Bay, UN Drive, Scan Drive, Caningo, Sheriff Drive, Wilkinson Road and Grassfield in Lumley in the West and Wards 346 in Calaba Town, 355 in Wellington and 356 in Kuntolor in the East of the capital are performing satisfactorily. The reports attributed the success of these Bureaus to the fact that they have an office space to conduct their activities. Also, they have a handful of volunteers who render full-time service coupled with the support of stakeholders and the Councilors of the various Wards.
The reports further reveals that Wards 348 in Old Wharf, 349 in Sayenor, 354 in Rokupa and Peacock Farm, 352 in Allen Town, 353 in Congo Water, 354 in Portee, 357 in Thunder Hill and 351 in Maxwell Street are performing below expectation. The report notes that these Bureaus do not have a proper office, volunteers who are not prepared to give off their time and a generally failure of local leadership.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said the local stakeholders in the struggling Bureaus should step up and stop looking for help from outside the community. ‘Taking ownership of the Bureau by ploughing in your resources is the surest way to ensure its sustainability and this is what we have been emphasizing from the outset,’ she said. ‘The Legal Aid Board will continue to invest in building the capacity of the volunteers, you have to play your part.
Carlton-Hanciles is exploring the possibility of overhauling the non-performing Bureaus. This will include replacing volunteers who are not ready to work. In addition, the Board’s Paralegals will spend more time in the Bureaus to support the volunteers. ‘The fact that the volunteers do not receive any allowance is a challenge we will have to address together,’ she said, adding: ‘It is very difficult joggling between volunteering and finding food for the family.’