Lawyer seeks to stop Nairobi County from clearing legal pending bills

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja when he appeared before committee on County Public Investments and Special Funds. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

A Nairobi lawyer has filed a case seeking to stop the Nairobi County Government from paying Sh21 billion in legal fees.

This, the lawyer argues should not happen until a list of the law firms and what they are demanding from the County is published.

Clinton Mwale has filed a case on behalf of Mwangi Ngatia Advocates. The law firm is among those seeking to receive the legal fees.

He has sued Nairobi County Government and Governor Johnson Sakaja with the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) as an interested party.

He says that the law firm submitted its bill to the committee that was set up by Governor Sakaja to audit the fees.

The committee was set up through Gazette Notice dated January 14, 2023, and was chaired by Kamotho Waiganjo with Sylvia Mueni Kasanga as his deputy.

The joint secretaries were Francis Njoroge and Beatrice Auma Otieno.

Committee members were LSK President Eric Theuri, Aldrin Ojiambo, Dulma Farah Mohamed, David Kabeberi and Dickson Mutuku Mwenze.

Others were Elias Mutuma, Jackson Awele Onyango, Emily Chelule, Victor Swanya and Wangechi Wahome.

Mwale says that they have since learnt that Treasury is in the process of releasing the money sought by Nairobi County and that the County seeks to pay less than 15 firms around Sh2 billion.

“It is not clear which modality the 1st respondent used to settle on paying the said 15 Law Firms in clear discrimination of the Applicants firm and other Firms that have equally provided legal services to the 1st respondent.”

He says that his client believes that the County should use the report by the committee since it will be open for scrutiny and challenge where it does not conform to the Bill of Rights.

He argues that his client is apprehensive that the County is seeking to pay “Politically connected” law firm and will discriminate against others by cherry picking firms to be paid without distributing the available budgeted money equitably.

According to an affidavit sworn by Rodney Wesonga who works at the firm, they are owed Sh4 million by the County which has accrued since 2021.

Wesonga says they have been waiting for the publishing of the audit committee report to no avail.

According to Mwale, his client is also apprehensive that the County might have ignored the report even after the taxpayer’s money was used to set it up.

They wrote to the County seeking information to ascertain the rationale that was used by the County to decide whom to pay.

He says that his client is willing to use alternative dispute resolution mechanisms before filing the case and therefore it is important for the court to stop the payment process.

“The Applicant is also apprehensive that once payments are made to the said 15 legal firms illegally, inequitably through nepotism and cronyism, the applicant will not be keen to engage the applicant on correspondence and alternative dispute resolution mechanism.”

In their letter to the county, they are seeking copies of minutes from the meeting held by the committee, confirmation of whether the county intends to pay the said firms and criteria used to pick the firms to be paid.

Others are county policy on payment of pending bills, justification for paying the firms and when they intend to pay the firms.

Recently Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o rejected a request by the county to release Sh1 billion which was to be paid out to 19 law firms as legal fees terming the payments as questionable.

She said that the county should give more clarifications on the bills.

She was concerned that the county had not submitted invoice dates for the 19 firms and it was, therefore, difficult to ascertain whether they are part of the pending bills or related to works done and invoiced in the current financial year.