Connect with us

Economy

City Hall Alarmed By ‘Exorbitant’ Legal Fee To Private Law Firms With Cecil Miller Firm Demanding Hundreds Of Millions

Published

on

Nairobi ward representatives have raised concerns over perennial understaffing at the Office of County Attorney, which has seen 50 external lawyers claim Sh6 billion in legal fees.

Ward representatives have accused the county government of deliberately failing to prioritise hiring its own legal personnel, in what has set up City Hall for exorbitant legal fees.

County Attorney Lydia Kwamboka said she has raised the matter on several occasions but the Nairobi County Public Service Board has turned a deaf ear despite a budget for the hiring of legal personnel being allocated.

“I am totally understaffed and I have written to the board on several occasions and they are not doing anything about it. The board chairperson told me that when he wants to advertise he is stopped but he doesn’t say who tells him to wait,” said Ms Kwamboka.

Mabatini MCA Wilfred Odalo decried why the county executive continues to incur huge costs in engaging external lawyers when legal staff for the county can handle all matters.

“The external advocates charge exorbitant legal fees when the same could have been affordable if the county had its substantive legal personnel,” said Mr Odalo.

“This sad state of affairs has been in existence since the inception of county governments which has perennially necessitated the county government to outsource most of its legal services,” he added.

The county attorney said her office needs a minimum of 35 lawyers where 20 will be those going to court while the remaining sit in the office to give instructions.

Recently, Ms Kwamboka requested the board for 17 positions but no advertisement was made despite having a budget for the same. She said her aim is to cut the legal fees paid to external lawyers.

“We can train our in-house advocates to do the same work because the more we contract the external advocates, the more our pending bills rise,” she said.

“They should act with urgency but nobody seems to hear me. If we have the in-house staff we don’t want to pay those ridiculous legal fees,” added the county attorney.

Related Content:  Uhuru Orders Review Of Power Purchase Deal

Consequently, the MCAs want chairpersons of two committees Justice and Legal Affairs, and Labour and Social Welfare to inquire and report on reasons why the county executive continues to incur huge costs in engaging external lawyers.

They also want to know the total number of lawyers the office of the County Attorney has, the present personnel establishment in the office of the County Attorney and the shortfall or deficit of legal and para-legal staff required to fill up the existing structures.

The county’s assembly has been investigating Sh6.97 billion in pending bills owed to law firms from cases handled by lawyers since 2017.

According to the Nairobi County Assembly Committee on Justice and Legal affairs, 130 law companies are demanding Ksh 6, 971, 837,929 from the county government.

Among the companies demanding bulk of the cash that the committee wants looked into, is Miller and Company Advocates demanding Ksh2.298 billion, Kandie Mudeizi and Mutai Company advocates seeking Ksh530, 809,848, KTK and Company advocates with Ksh413, 000,000 and Nyamberi & Company advocates at Ksh 500,586372.

According to their findings by the Joseph Komu led Justice and legal affairs Committee, there existed two reports on pending bills in the 2018/1 financial year.

On the 27th of October 2021 Clerk of the senate wrote to Governor Anne Kananu requesting a statement over an alleged illegal payment of legal fees for outsourced law firms by the Nairobi City County Government.

Among the matters Senate wanted clarified were the reasons as why the county had paid law firms 31 percent of total pending bills amounting to Ksh795.9 million from the Ksh 2.5 billion that had been issued to clear pending bills for the 2018/19 financial year.

The issue of law firms and row with MCAs didn’t start today, it has been a thorn in flesh with officials accused of working with law firms in fictitious cases to defraud the county.

Related Content:  Mismanagement Claims Rock Kenya Nuclear Authority As Chairman Gatembe Refuses To Leave Office Despite Tenure Lapse

In January 2021, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has launched investigations into multi-million shilling dealings between 25 law firms and the Nairobi County government.

The probe was focused on payment of legal fees by City Hall to the firms between 2013 and 2020.

The EACC, in a letter dated January 21, wants the county secretary to furnish it with the specific case files handled by the 25 law firms between 2013 and 2020, including letters of instructions and contract agreements.

“The commission is undertaking investigations at Nairobi City County in respect of payments of legal fees to the following firms. To facilitate our investigations, kindly but urgently furnish us with the original documents in respect to the mentioned firms,” states the letter.

The law firms

The firms included Irungu Kang’ata and Co. Advocates, Osundwa and Co. Advocates, Kwanga Mboya and Co. Advocates, Kithi and Co. Advocates, Wanjiku Maina and Co. Advocates, E.Onyango and Co. Advocates, J.O Magolo and Co. Advocates, Ario Advocates, Maskam ( Asanyo), E.N Omoti and Co. Advocates and Ogeto Ottachi and Co. Advocates.

Others are Musyoka Mogaka and Co. Advocates, Masire Mogusu and Co. Advocates, Maanzo Co. Advocates, Koceyo Co. Advocates, R.M Wafula Co. Advocates, Mbaluka Co. Advocates, Njenga Maina Co. Advocates, Kandie Murtai Co. Advocates, Sirma Co. Advocates, Arati Co. Advocates, C.M Mitema Co. Advocates, Munyasia Co. Advocates and Ongicho Ongicho Co. Advocates.

Bills.

The EACC further asked to be furnished with all payment vouchers, cheque counterfoil and a list of pre-qualified law firms for the period under investigation.

This is in addition to minutes approving the list of pre-qualified law firms and any other documents relevant to the probe.

MCAs have also made allegations of favouritism by City Hall in the clearance of lawyers’ bills instead of small scale suppliers owed less money.

Related Content:  Beer Prices Are Going Up Once Again

City Hall paid legal fees to the tune of Sh795.9 million out of the Sh2.5 billion allocated for clearance of all pending bills, locking out other suppliers and contractors.

As a result, MCAs, through a motion by Silvia Museiya (nominated), called on the county executive to come up with a policy to streamline outsourcing of legal services.

The legislators alleged that the outsourcing has turned into a business, with some lawyers colluding with officers in the executive, including those in the office of the county attorney, to siphon money from the county.

They claimed an unnamed law firm was paid Sh250 million despite not carrying out any legal transaction with the county government.

Audit report

Painting a grim picture of the state in the legal department at City Hall, the Auditor-General’s report for the 2016/2017 financial year revealed the department spent Sh592.4 million on unauthorised payments.

According to the report, the department spent Sh645.3 million on legal costs against an approved budget of Sh105 million.

Interestingly, the bulk of the money, Sh314.4 million, was paid to some 12 firms. The payment was not included in the Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis).

In February 2019, the assembly’s Public Accounts Committee found that the legal department spent Sh480 million, more than four times the Sh100 million budgeted for.

The payments were made without documentary evidence, including a total of Sh318.4 million which was sent to several lawyers.

In the 2018/2019 financial year, a total of Sh795.9 million was paid to 48 law firms yet only eight raised fee notes.

During that financial year, 335 cases were handled by the legal department but only 12 of them were successful. The rest were either withdrawn or lost.


Kenya Insights allows guest blogging, if you want to be published on Kenya’s most authoritative and accurate blog, have an expose, news TIPS, story angles, human interest stories, drop us an email on tips.kenyainsights@gmail.com or via Telegram

Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular