Activist petitions Senate to stop counties from outsourcing legal services

Activist Laban Omusundi. [File, Standard]

A petition seeking to stop counties from outsourcing legal services has been committed to the Senate Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations.

In his petition, Nakuru-based civil rights activist Laban Omusundi wants the devolved units to stop engaging private law firms in county litigations.

The public petition that has been received and certified by the Clerk of the Senate, Jeremiah Nyengenye, seeks the intervention of senators to stop what Omusundi claims to be unlawful hiring of private law firms by county governments.

The petitioner argues that the law allows county governments to establish the office of county attorney to help in such litigations.

He says the county attorney's office is the only one legally mandated to represent county governments in legal matters.

Omusundi's petition comes after Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o, revealed how outsourcing legal services cost counties a whopping Sh50 billion pending bills in the financial year 2022/2023.

The petitioner quotes the report, singling out Nakuru County, which allocated the office of the county attorney a whopping Sh208 million. 

The report released in September 2023 shows that the office spent Sh123.72 in offering litigation and other legal services.

However, Omusundi says that despite the budgetary allocation, the county still hired a private law firm, citing a contempt of court case against Governor Susan Kihika.

He laments that taxpayers' money, meant for service delivery to residents, is being used to pay lawyers.

“Our efforts to reach the office of the county attorney on the issues above have been fruitless, and if nothing is done, the objective of devolution to bring services to Wanjiku will fail,” he notes.

The petitioner wants the Senate to come up with policies that will ensure county governments are held responsible if money is misused on legal fees.

Nyegenye has acknowledged receipt of the petition saying it's in compliance with Standing Orders.

“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 the letter.

The Clerk in the letter says that the petition was presented before the House on April 30, 2024, by Senate Speaker Amason Kingi.

“Subsequently, the petition has been committed to the Standing Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations,” reads the letter.

Omusundi has been advised to seek any assistance on the matter from Sylvia Nasambu, the Clerk Assistant of the committee.

The letter has been copied to Wajir Senator Mohamed Abbas, who is the chair of the Standing Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations.

The Clerk says the committee will interrogate the matter after which Omusundi will appear before it.

The committee will later write and submit its report on findings before the Senate, to either adopt the prayers in the petition or disallow them.