Report faults Minijust legal advisory service

Government should improve services of its legal advisory desk at the Ministry of Justice (Minijust) by hiring more legal experts, focusing on bigger contracts, and communicating more with other public institutions, an internal report at the ministry has suggested.

Government should improve services of its legal advisory desk at the Ministry of Justice (Minijust) by hiring more legal experts, focusing on bigger contracts, and communicating more with other public institutions, an internal report at the ministry has suggested.

Yet, the report, titled “Impact of Minijust Legal Opinions on Other Public Institutions Study”, indicate that the ministry’s Legal Advisory Service (LAS) helps many government institutions handle complicated issues and take legally informed and credible decisions.

Legal advisors in both central and local governments have used LAS to draft some contracts at their institutions and many contractual issues of both national and international significance have been discussed at the desk.

 “The results of this study show that the department of legal advisory services has achieved a lot in the last five years,” the study reads in part. “The findings, particularly those relating to recipient institutions satisfaction, as well as the impact on decision-making, harboured positive sentiments towards Minijust legal opinion, given the immense importance that Minijust legal opinions play in the processes of the majority of institutions.”

But the report, by independent consultants and commissioned by the ministry, has criticised LAS for taking too long to deliver on its legal opinions, not being in touch with legal advisors from other institutions, and failing to provide informed decisions in some technical areas.

“In some technical areas it is difficult for Minijust to give the correct information because it does not make a field visit to make a deep research on a case,” the report noted.

Delayed response 

Even if most institutions at both central and local government (level) have reportedly consulted the service at one point in their business, government ministries have been the main clients while districts demand less for the service.

Delayed response from LAS officials on requests for legal opinions is one of the main reasons discouraging the use of Minijust’s service by district officials, users say.

“There is generally serious delay which creates issues for our contractors,” said Heredion Mushimiyimana, Procurement Officer for Gasabo District in Kigali.

The report recommended Minijust to recruit more lawyers to work for its Legal Advisory Service, limit advisory services to contracts of at least Rwf100 million, instead of receiving any requests for legal opinion, and communicating more with other government institutions to ensure that they deliver legal advisory services on time.

The Assistant Attorney General for Legal Advisory Service, Isabelle Kalihangabo, said that her desk will also consider having specialised departments of legal experts to tackle contracts related to energy, mining, and procurement, among others.

 “We can’t receive all the cases but let us help with sensitive cases of high implications,” she said in an interview yesterday.

According to Kalihangabo, a team of six lawyers constitute the LAS team.

Last Friday the Justice minister and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye, urged top officials in public institutions to thoroughly collaborate with their legal officers to avoid losses of millions of government funds in inappropriate drafting and implementation of contracts.

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