Senate committee in push to bar counties from hiring law firms


Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja (2nd left) in a discussion with the Senate Devolution Committee led by Chairman Mohamed Abbas (right) after the Committee meeting at Argyle Grand Hotel, Machakos on May 3, 2024. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The Senate Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations is pushing to stop counties from outsourcing legal services.

The committee in a meeting chaired by Wajir Senator Mohamed Abbas at the Bunge Towers on Monday was deliberating a petition by Nakuru-based civil rights activist Laban Omusundi.

Omusundi is seeking the intervention of the Senate to stop all 47 counties from hiring private law firms to litigate on behalf of the devolved units.

He claimed that despite having funded county attorney offices, counties were incurring billions of shillings in legal fees.

In the meeting, the committee noted that no law bars counties from engaging private lawyers, leading to reports of misuse of funds.

“There is a lot of misuse of public resources in outsourcing legal services, informed by lack of law restricting county bosses from the same,” noted the committee.

The committee further deliberated on the need to curb the misuse of funds by putting in place measures to restrain the county bosses from outsourcing legal services.

Further, the committee agreed that there was a need to restrict county governments on the amount of money to be spent on private law firms.

According to the committee, there was a need to put measures to stop misuse of funds in governments, so that county bosses are held accountable for their actions.

The Senate also invited institutions to give their opinions on what should be done, including the Council of Governors, Kenya Law Reform Commission, Law Society of Kenya and Katiba Institute.

“Other institutions invited to give their proposals on the petition are Transparency International, Kenya National Human Rights Commission, Kenya Human Rights Commission, and The Institute of Social Accountability, among others,” the committee agreed.

The committee is expected to submit its report on findings before the Senate, to either adopt or disallow the prayers in Omusundi’s petition.

The petition was committed to the committee by Amason Kingi, the Speaker of the Senate, on April 30, 2024.

“Having reviewed the petition in line with the Senate Standing Orders, it was found compliant to Section 3 of Petition to Parliament (Procedure) Act and Senate Standing Order 235 on the form of a Public Petition,” read a letter from the Clerk of the Senate dated April 30.

Omusundi submitted that the County Attorney's office is the only one legally mandated to represent county governments.

He provided a Controller of Budget’s report for 2022/2023, where the Nakuru County Attorney’s office was allocated Sh207.9 million and spent Sh123.72 in offering legal services.

However, Omusundi noted that despite the budget, the county still hired a private law firm, citing a contempt of court case against Governor Susan Kihika as an example.

“If nothing is done, the objective of devolution to bring services to Wanjiku will fail as county resources will be misused,” he said.

He wants the Senate to come up with policies to curb the same.