Moree plans moves to restore court integrity


Chief Justice Brian Moree, QC.


Deputy Chief Reporter


ACCEPTING the findings of Auditor General Terrance Bastian’s audit into the Magistrates’ Court as a “serious” matter, Chief Justice Brian Moree has said there will be fundamental changes with the system over the next six months in a bid to restore integrity.

Chief among troubling concerns highlighted in an auditor’s report tabled at the House of Assembly last week, was the exposure of instances where cashiers allegedly altered payment receipts for child and spousal support payments and nearly two dozen missing cheques. The concerns were found in the investigation of documents from the period July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2018.

According to Registrar Camille Darville-Gomez in a recent interview with The Tribune, while some of the findings were a surprise, it was known before the report’s completion that there needed to be an overhaul.

Most important to this overhaul is the conversion of the process to a cashless system for the payment and receipt of child and spousal support, Chief Justice Moree explained. An expression of interest has already been published in newspapers with six entities submitting proposals for the project, he said, adding that over the next eight weeks or sooner, officials hope to select a suitable vendor.

A shortage of staff at the courts, particularly, in the Accounts Department, is also being addressed.

“… There are going to be big changes in the Magistrates’ Court which we hope together with what the registrar has already done to strengthen the systems and checks and balances in the Accounting Department, is going to further help us to address these problems and also to be transparent about what is happening in Family Court number three, and to provide a much better service to the Bahamian public with regard to making these payments and accessing these payments,” Chief Justice Moree said.

He added: “We’ve taken what is happening in the Magistrates’ Court as very serious matter. It is a significant component of our court system in The Bahamas and it involves literally thousands of Bahamians. So we are committed across the board to improving the service, making it far more accessible to the Bahamian public and in doing so we will be very astute to address the recommendations of the auditor general and the registrar has already began to do that.”

Chief Justice Moree said the report provided confirmation of long-standing issues.

“Absolutely I think the Auditor General’s report provided some empirical data and confirmation of some of the issues that needed to be addressed,” he told The Tribune. “I don’t think the auditor general said the system completely collapsed. He identified issues and practises and systems that needed to be addressed in order to provide a proper accounting department.

“These solutions that we are looking at will most definitely address those issues. There is a micro aspect to this problem and then there’s a macro aspect to this problem,” he continued. “The micro aspect is the specific recommendations which the auditor general has made with regard to our Accounting Department. Those are extremely helpful (and) very useful.

“We totally accept his recommendations and his comments and efforts are already being extended by the registrar and her team to implement those recommendations but the point that we’re making is we’re going much further than this.

“We’re in the process of modernising and reforming our court system – the Magistrates’ Court, the Supreme Court and aspects of the Court of Appeal as well.

“The Magistrates’ Court we hope is going to go through some fundamental changes over the next six months, which we hope will inure to the ultimate benefit of the Bahamian public and is certainly going to address the issues mentioned by the auditor general.

“… We are also going to be putting a senior court administrator in the Magistrates’ Court, which is going to assume direct responsibility for all non-judicial services and we’re going to strengthen the management team in the Magistrates’ Court.

“That is part of our HR needs that we’re working on so the Magistrates’ Court is going to have its own dedicated senior management team which will report to the registrar and she will report to the chief justice and the chief magistrate will continue to be responsible for the judicial functions and services and the senior management team headed by the court administrator is going to be responsible for all non-judicial services, so we are going to have much stronger management, a better system, I hope better staff in the Accounts Department (and) the beginning of the technology platform.”

Mr Bastian’s report said there was also a missing endorsed blank cheque for $6,000 that was later cashed. This was directly given to the Royal Bahamas Police Force for further investigation.

Last May, 26-year-old Donavon Harris of Marshall Road, pleaded guilty to charges of possession of a forged document, uttering a forged document and fraud by false pretences at his arraignment before Magistrate Derence Rolle-Davis and was sentenced to one year in prison.

According to a published report, Mr Harris cashed a $6,000 cheque, drawn on the Civil and Domestic Courts account of the court, at the Royal Bank of Canada Cable Beach Branch on May 24, 2018.

The court heard that he told police an accounts supervisor at the complex was the mastermind in a scheme to defraud the Civil and Domestic Courts.

As for cashiers altering receipts, Ms Darville-Gomez said the system as been changed and upgraded to ensure only supervisors or other senior staff can carry out the function.


Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 3 months ago

CJ Moree says he's hoping for better staff in the accounts department of the courts. Meanwhile most Bahamians are properly focused on our desperate need for better judges to replace the many political hacks who have been appointed by FNM and PLP governments alike, principally for party loyalty reasons, with little or no regard for demonstrated meritorious experience warranting their appointment. A truly frightening situation that has developed over the last couple of decades and is the root cause of the considerable public distrust in our court system today. Good luck fixing that CJ Moree.


bahamianson 4 years, 3 months ago

What a joke !!!! Good luck with that. How can we change our culture?


Godson 4 years, 3 months ago

He himself, is not in good reputation with me for integrity. Did he have a hallelujah moment since his own deceitful behavior?


TalRussell 4 years, 3 months ago

CJ Brian is a honourable comrade and if he can't get books balance in favour of child and spousal support - we colony might as well turnoff the magistrates courts lights - but CJ, must bypass the Houses's elected 35-and their political appoints?
Talking about deposits standards. Do the banks continue with their reluctance to accept the numbers houses deposits?


bogart 4 years, 3 months ago

Restore Court integrity ..??? Restore Court integrity...???

How can dere be a restore integrity when the last big boss jus jus before him did serve the nation with high honours, a State Recognized Funeral lots of well speeches and highest work standards, Marching Band, highest honours, well wishes by all the politicians, Judiciary, erryone turning out to watch parade and ceremony... .....

Mind you the current boss did first done already discover the buildings needin fixing up before the alleged tiefing found by Auditor.


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