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Parliamentary Service Commission refuses to pay Sh55 million owed to country’s top lawyers

By Alphonce Shiundu | November 11th 2013

By Alphonce Shiundu

Nairobi, Kenya: A row has erupted over payment of legal fees following the recent court case pitting the Senate against the National Assembly.

The Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) has refused to pay top notch lawyers who were involved in the case at the Supreme Court.

The total fee agreed between the PSC and the three lawyers is Sh55 million.

The Senate owes its lawyers, Kioko Kilukumi and Pheroze Nowrojee, Sh25 million, while the National Assembly owes its lawyer, Fred Ngatia, Sh30 million.

Curiously, the lawyers were contracted through the PSC’s tendering mechanism, and it is unclear why the commission has now turned around and argues that paying for the legal services was not prudent use of taxpayers’ funds.

Court battle

The PSC’s resolution exposes Parliament to litigation because inevitably the lawyers will move to court to compel the commission to pay the money plus interest. Eventually it might end up costing the taxpayers much more, raising the question in whose interest is the recent decision.

The Budget and Appropriations Committee has summoned the PSC, and its accounting officer Jeremiah Nyegenye, to explain if the money has been paid or not, and why the PSC saw it fit to incur the expense.

In a memo seen by The Standard, the Budget and Appropriations Committee says the PSC has to shed light on how they are spending the money the National Assembly approved in the current financial year.

The Chairman of the Budget committee, Mr Mutava Musyimi (Mbeere South), said the controversy about the money for lawyers was one of the things the committee wants the PSC to explain.

“Certainly, the issue of payment for lawyers will feature,” Musyimi told The Standard. The committee chairman said MPs would also want the commission to explain what it was doing in the light of protests by MPs about shortage of money for car loans and offices, and other utilities.

Suba MP John Mbadi who sits in the Budget Committee, believes the lawyers should not be paid because “the Senate acted rogue” when it decided to go to court.

“This was an internal matter. The fact the Speakers of both Houses had disagreed does not mean all the avenues had been exhausted. I don’t think it will be wise for us to spend that money,” Mbadi said.

Mbadi added that the Senate cannot force the PSC to incur expenditure, unless the PSC agrees to it.

Unnecessary spending

“Where is the section in law that allows the Senate to pass a resolution to spend money?” Mbadi posed.

When reminded that the the National Assembly also had a bill to pay, he replied: “The Senate was already in court, therefore we had to get lawyers to respond.”

He said the summoning of the PSC’s accounting officer was meant to notify him that MPs would not tolerate “unnecessary spending”.

“We’re trying to stop future misuse of funds. If they have paid, we will make the appropriate decision. As an accounting officer, I think, they should not succumb to pressure,” said Mbadi.

David Musila, Senator of Kitui County, who is a PSC commissioner, confirmed the commission had made the resolution not to pay the lawyers.

“I know there’s a resolution to decline to pay the lawyers for both the National Assembly and the Senate. You know the amounts. The PSC objected to it because it was not a good charge on public funds,” said Musila.

He added that procurement of the legal services was done through a tender committee as authorised by the commission.

The two Houses of Parliament procured the lawyers as they fought over which House had the final say over the Division of Revenue Bill. The two Speakers Ekwee Ethuro (Senate) and Justin Muturi (National Assembly) had disagreed bitterly, and each had issued a ruling in their respective Houses claiming a role in the Bill.

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