Lack of funds causes backlog at Industrial Court

In­dus­tri­al Court Pres­i­dent Deb­o­rah Thomas-Fe­lix has claimed that her or­gan­i­sa­tion has been se­vere­ly ham­pered by bud­getary cuts over the past year. 

Pre­sent­ing her an­nu­al speech at the open­ing of the 2019/2020 Law Term at the court’s head­quar­ters in Port-of-Spain, yes­ter­day morn­ing, Thomas-Fe­lix stat­ed that the court on­ly re­ceived $40 mil­lion in re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture de­spite re­quest­ing $64 mil­lion. 

 

Of the mon­ey re­ceived, $26 mil­lion rep­re­sent­ed salaries with the re­main­der go­ing to­wards goods and ser­vices in­clud­ing se­cu­ri­ty costs and util­i­ties. 

“Fur­ther, to ex­ac­er­bate an al­ready dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion the re­lease of these funds has been in­con­sis­tent and in­ad­e­quate. There were times when there was no re­lease of funds with re­spect to goods and ser­vices for months at a time,” Thomas-Fe­lix said. 

She said as a re­sult of the deficit, the court had to for­go its stake­hold­er en­gage­ment events, train­ing for staff and court hear­ings in To­ba­go. 

“This sit­u­a­tion has been on­go­ing for the past few years and it is be­com­ing in­creas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult for the court to meet its fi­nan­cial and ser­vice oblig­a­tions and to have ba­sic sup­plies such as ink and pa­per,” Thomas-Fe­lix said. 

Thomas-Fe­lix stat­ed that fund­ing is­sues al­so af­fect­ed the court’s abil­i­ty to fill 20 va­can­cies for court re­porters, which have been out­stand­ing for some time. She claimed that the va­can­cies di­rect­ly af­fect­ed the court’s ef­fi­cien­cy. 

“This year a to­tal of 399 judge­ments were re­served for de­ci­sion by the court. Of these re­served judge­ments, 214 re­main out­stand­ing due to the fact that notes can­not be pre­pared and giv­en to judges for their de­ci­sions and the back­log which was cleared in 2014 has re­turned,” Thomas-Fe­lix said. 

In a brief in­ter­view af­ter the cer­e­mo­ny, At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi said that the fi­nan­cial con­straints were not unique to the In­dus­tri­al Court. 

“Every min­istry in the bud­get­ing ex­er­cise goes through the per­for­mance where you re­quest 100 and get 40 or 30...That is some­thing every in­sti­tu­tion has man­aged,” Al-Rawi said, as he claimed that it was di­rect­ly re­lat­ed to re­duc­tions in the State’s es­ti­mat­ed rev­enue. 

Al-Rawi al­so sought to ad­dress the fi­nan­cial is­sues with re­cruit­ing court re­porters and in­tro­duc­ing on­line ser­vices for the court. 

“I am pleased to say the is­sues raised by the Ho­n­ourable Pres­i­dent are all easy to ad­dress and are ca­pa­ble of an im­me­di­ate so­lu­tion,” Al-Rawi said. 

In terms of the court re­porters, Al-Rawi said that the Ju­di­cia­ry had a sim­i­lar prob­lem which was solved by train­ing 300 em­ploy­ees in voice recog­ni­tion soft­ware. The train­ing cost $500,000 and was com­plet­ed in three months. 

Al-Rawi al­so claimed that the Ju­di­cia­ry had de­vel­oped a se­ries of suc­cess­ful e-ser­vices in­clud­ing a case man­age­ment sys­tem, which Chief Jus­tice Ivor Archie has agreed to share with the In­dus­tri­al Court. 

 - by Derek Achong. Photo by Nicole Drayton

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