Affordable access to justice

general assembly on January 24, 2024

In its report to the Federal Parliament, the Belgian Court of Audit presents its findings on the internal controls of second-line legal aid that are carried out by the bar associations and orders of lawyers and on the external control of legal aid bureaus’ operating costs by the FPS Justice. Since the government would like to fund second-line legal aid with an open budget but no longer with a closed budget, the Court of Audit recommends that these controls be firstly improved to ensure the efficient use of public funds. The Court also recommends reviewing the calculation of the overheads to be added to the hourly cost of assistance. As regards the tax reduction for the legal expenses insurance, the Court notes that the expected doubling of insurance subscriptions has not been achieved; moreover, the additional budgetary costs are difficult to justify, changes mainly consist in a conversion of existing insurance policies and the measure favours the wealthier citizens. The Court therefore recommends that the government assess the measure in consultation with the orders of lawyers and the insurers.