State lawyer slams civil defence cases

National, Normal

The National – Monday, June 20, 2011

THE solicitor-general has expressed concern over the  high record of liability in the past 10 years, resulting from civil cases not defended properly in court because of a lack of instructions.
Solicitor-General Neville Devete, addressing the client-relationship seminar organised by his office in Kokopo last Thursday, said statistics showed millions of kina had been spent by the government following default judgments because of lack of instructions from client departments.
He said  it had caused his office to consider the fact that millions of kina could have trickled down to the 85% of the po­pulation in rural areas .
The client-relationship seminar is a programme initiated in 2009 and has been rolled out in the past 18 months in certain provinces in the four regions to help client departments such as police, correctional services, defence, health, works and lands and physical planning to reduce the high liability to the state.
He said his office had received po­sitive response since the programme started.
Devete said that lack of instructions by client departments regarding cases had always been the problem.
“Lawyers need instructions to defend cases, client departments have to realise the importance of instructions because the government cannot continue to give away money for individual benefit,” he said.
He said negligence by client departments in the past decade posed a serious concern at the huge liability bill the state faced.
Devete said 37% of claims involved the Police Department and that equalled more than 16,000 court claims in the past decade of which K86 million had been paid out.
He said claims involving the Department of Lands and Physical Planning stood at K34 million, Department of Works K20 million, with other departments posting alarming bills.
He said one way of minimising the liability bill was to fully use the new Alternate Dispute Resolution, which was a way of settling claims usually through mediation and was compulsory in national court.
Devete said the process of mediation was a Melanesian way and “is most likely to save more money and take less time to resolve civil matters outside of court”.