The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has charged the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, to impress on the Judicial Service to expedite action on the backlog of land cases, pending before Ghana’s courts.
The chairman of the Committee, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, said this on the floor of Parliament, when he was presenting the Report of the Public Accounts Committee, on the Performance Audit Report of the Auditor-General, on the Phase One of the Land Administration Project (LAP-1).
On the Clearance of Backlog of Land Cases in the Courts, the Committee observed that the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR) was to ensure the settlement of a backlog of 35,000 land cases pending before the courts under LAP-1. The Committee, however, noted that the MLNR reduced the number of land cases from 35,000 to 7,120.
It also informed the House that both the Acting Director of the Judicial Service and the Chief Director of the MLNR, explained that the figure of 35,000 being the backlog of land cases pending before the courts was only an estimate, since the Judicial Service did not have records on all land cases. However, following a census conducted by the World Bank, a total of 7,122 land cases of different categories were found to be pending before the High and Circuit Courts of the country.
The Committee also said that according to the Acting Director of the Judicial Service, ‘backlog of land cases’ as per the definition by the Judicial Service, means ‘land cases that have been in the court books for 24 calendar months without action.’ Thus, out of the 7,122 land cases identified, 2,887 cases were actually backlogged. At the end of LAP-1, a total of 2, 820 of the identified backlog land cases had been cleared.
Notwithstanding the efforts made by the Ministry and the Judicial Service to clear the backlog of land cases, the Committee could not understand why the Judicial Service was unable to provide the project with the actual number of backlog of land cases, but had to depend on a survey by the World Bank to arrive at the exact figure.
The Committee therefore recommended that the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources should deepen its collaboration with the Judicial Service to ensure that the remaining backlog of land cases are cleared by the Judicial Service as early as possible.
It added that the Ministry should also ensure that a desk is set up in the Land Sector Agencies, preferably the Survey Department, to handle references for judgments in land cases, in order to keep the MLNR abreast of land cases pending before the courts.
The Committee further recommended that the Judicial Service should put measures in place to document all backlog of land cases pending before all the courts in the country.
Phase One of the Land Administration Project (LAP-1) was initiated by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources in the year 2003. It is part of a long-term (15 to 25 years) Land Administration Reform Programme, intended to implement policy actions recommended by the National Land Policy (NLP, 1999) to deal with challenges in the land sector, such as inadequate policy and legal framework, fragmented institutional arrangements and weak institutional capacity on the part of land sector agencies, among others.
The purpose of the audit was to determine the extent to which the MLNR had laid the foundation for a sustainable decentralised land administration system in the areas of harmonising land policies, undertaking institutional reforms and implementing key land administration pilot projects in Ghana.
The audit focused on activities carried out by the MLNR in the harmonisation of land policies, institutional reforms and the implementation of key land administration pilot projects in Ghana, from the year 2003 to 2011. The audit was carried out from August 2011 to April 2013.