The visit took off to a start with a-three hour long meeting with staff of the Board in Freetown last Tuesday, May 30 where Mr. Mdaka was briefed by every member of staff on their respectively responsivities.
The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles described the visit as a learning opportunity for the two schemes, more so going into the future. She attributed the Board’s impact on the community to the team built around people who have extensive experience in community work. She underlined the need for capacity building for staff noting, this is a priority for the scheme.
The Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Mr. Sallu Jusu provided updates on the activities of the Board in the areas of legal representation, legal advice, Alternative Dispute Resolution service and legal education, adding that 16,797 people have benefited from the scheme in the first quarter of the year. He underlined the challenges in data collection and analysis for which there is need for Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software.
The National Outreach and Community Affairs Officer, Ibrahim Kamara spoke about ongoing efforts to open more Community Advisory Bureaus (CAB) to expand access to justice in communities around the country. He noted a key challenge relates to training for volunteers and funding for operations. ‘We have already opened fifteen Bureaus in the country, all in Freetown for now,’ he said.
Mr. Mdaka was also briefed on a core function of the Board relating to the Accreditation of Legal Aid Service Providers, which is part of efforts at expanding access to justice and ensuring the delivery of quality legal aid.
He also visited the Citizens Advisory Bureau in Lumley, Freetown where he saw firsthand a land matter being mediated by the volunteers. Two persons were laying claim to the land after it was sold to them by the same person.
The visit also took Mr. Mdaka upcountry where he spent time in one of the field offices upcountry in the Northern Regional Headquarters town in Makeni. He interacted with staff and saw then mediates civil matters as part of the Alternative Dispute Resolution service. He also paid a courtesy call on a traditional ruler, Paramount Chief of Safroko Limba Chiefdom and his sub-chiefs where he was briefed on the delivery of justice in the traditional setting.
Mr. Mdaka also interacted with the students of the Law Department, University of Makeni who shared experiences working as interns with various organizations in the region and the services the Law Clinic is providing to the community.