The signing of the MoU with the Legal Aid Board is part of the implementation of the 100-Day Plan of Action of the Ombudsman, Mr. Melron Nicol-Wilson that was launched on the 26th May 2017.
The MoU seeks to achieve professional cooperation and exchange of information on complaints referred by either institution to the other. It is hoped that the MoU will enhance a better working relationship between the Ombudsman and the Legal Aid Board in the provision of justice to the people of Sierra Leone.
In his remarks before signing, the Ombudsman, Mr. Melron Nicol-Wilson, said he was honoured to sign the MoU as it is an official document to make sure that a formal referral system is established between his office and the board. He noted that prior to his appointment; there was no formal way of referring complainants in the Office of the Ombudsman. He said, most often, complainants would be told that their matters do not fall within the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman and not properly referred to appropriate agencies like the Legal Aid Board.
Signing on behalf of the Legal Aid Board, the Executive Director, Mrs. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles, said, she was happy to enter into the agreement with the Ombudsman. She said, the Board has been referring several matters to the Ombudsman before the appointment of Mr. Melron Nicol-Wilson but there was usually no follow up or feedback on those matters. However, she said, it was understandable at the time since the erstwhile Ombudsman was busy with the constitutional review process.
Mrs. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles particularly expressed appreciation to Mr. Nicol-Wilson for his immense contribution to the development of legal aid in Sierra Leone, beginning with his Lawyers Centre for Legal Assistance (LAWLA), which was the first legal aid scheme after the civil war in the country. She said, the work of LAWCLA is the foundation of legal aid in Sierra Leone, which has eventually culminated into a national legal aid programme.
The Executive director of the Legal Aid Board further noted the importance of collaborating with the Ombudsman especially in the areas of outreach and community dispute resolution, and promised to work with the Ombudsman in those areas in the future.
The Office of the Ombudsman was established by the Ombudsman Act (Act No. 2 of 1997) to investigate and resolve complaints from members of the public, who claim to have suffered injustice as a result of maladministration by Government Ministries, Departments, Agencies, Statutory Corporations or Institutions established with public funds, in Sierra Leone.
The Legal Aid Board was established by the legal Aid Act 2012 to provide, administer, coordinate and monitor the provision of Legal Aid in civil and criminal matters
Abdulai Senesie Principal Public Relations Officer Office of the Ombudsman, Sierra Leone +23278826484