In Sierra Leone, LASER helped to raise the profile of commercial law and justice reform as a priority area for improving the business environment, resulting in new government policy and national level indicators.
LASER initially provided remote support during the Ebola crisis to develop the commercial law and justice (CLJ) component of the Justice Sector Reform Strategy and Implementation Plan III (JSRSIP III) – the first time post-conflict that the justice sector has prioritised investment in this area.
Subsequently, through a Resident Adviser embedded within government for one year from 2015-2016, LASER provided support to the Law Officers Department in the Ministry of Justice on commercial contracting. The programme also provided support to the Commercial Division of the High Court (the Fast Track Commercial Court).
LASER supported the formation of the UK-Sierra Leone Pro Bono Network, a country-specific umbrella organisation, to test the ability of such a model to forge partnerships between UK pro bono experts and developing country partners that are closely aligned to partner needs and priorities.
Government Commercial Contracting
LASER helped built the capacity of Law Officers Department (LOD) on commercial contracting by working side-by-side with law officers on transaction documents. LASER helped the Government of Sierra Leone to:
- Organise and conduct training of the LOD, in conjunction with the international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills (who implement the Fair Deal Sierra Leone project), on the Model Government Memorandum of Understanding.
- Design and release for use a Model Energy Memorandum of Understanding with specific instructions for the Ministry of Energy’s usage of the document.
- Map its agribusiness investment process to clarify the rationale for agribusiness agreements between investors and Government. LASER subsequently helped petition the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to adapt its training on the application of the Voluntary Guidelines on Governance of Land Tenure in Sierra Leone so as to account for the Government’s agribusiness investment process and so be more relevant to participants.
Commercial Dispute Resolution LASER supported the justice sector to raise the profile of commercial dispute resolution and its importance in building investor confidence. Commercial dispute resolution reforms are now part of the President’s Recovery Priorities and additional funding has been secured from DFID to support the achievement of these. In particular LASER:
- Supported the deployment of a UK former Mercantile Court judge at the request of the then Acting Chief Justice to work with the Fast Track Commercial Court (FTCC) to identify priority actions to help improve performance
- Conducted an analysis of Fast Track Commercial Court case processing and management data to establish baseline data for the FTCC to measure its performance and to enable monitoring of the relevant indicators in the President’s Recovery Priorities.
LASER’s flexible approach allowed it to help bridge a gap after the end of a long-running justice programme in Sierra Leone and the start of the subsequent programme that provided support to the public financial management of the Judiciary of Sierra Leone. This funding ensured continued support through a local consultant to provide on the ground assistance to the Judiciary’s 2016 budgeting process.
Highlighting the role of the justice sector in building investor confidence
LASER also designed and implemented an IFC-hosted Public Private Dialogue (PPD) in partnership with the Corporate Affairs Commission. The dialogue aimed to forge the networks needed and build structures that facilitate information sharing for partners seeking to improve the doing business environment and, for the justice sector, to inform and facilitate the implementation of the commercial law and justice component of the government’s justice sector strategy.