Friday, October 23, 2020

AG accused of favouritism

Some local private lawyers have raised complaints that government has not formally informed them of the new system of outsourcing civil cases to private lawyers. They told The Telegraph that the system, which allegedly started at the beginning of the year, is shrouded in secrecy as it is not clear who will benefit from it.

The lawyers also said while there have been no formal complaints from the attorney general, there are already rumors doing the rounds that some of their colleagues in private practice are already benefitting from the system.
“We only heard that there are some who have benefited from the system, but we do not know what criteria were used to select the beneficiaries. We do not even know the nature of their benefits”; he said.

Another lawyer said that he does not even know if such a scheme exists as it has not been formally announced.
“If such a scheme exists, it will be a very bad development for the legal profession because it implies that there is no transparency, and some things only benefit a select few who are close to those at the attorney general’s chambers” he said.

“Asked to comment on the issue, the Public Relations Officer at the attorney general’s chambers Abigali Hlabano confirmed that they have out sourced only a few civil cases to private practitioners.

She added that government has a shortage of senior lawyers who are competent enough to handle some difficult cases, and they are sometimes forced to seek the services of private attorneys.

On the criteria used to select lawyers who benefit from the scheme, Hlabano said selection is based solely on proficiency.

“We deal with private lawyers on a daily basis, and we know their fields of expertise, such that we are able to judge who is able to handle which case. She added that through consultation is done before final selection.

“The attorney general is empowered by section 3(2) of the State Proceedings Act to engage any lawyer of their choice” she said.

She also stressed that the system is very open to anyone who qualifies, and everyone is guaranteed to benefit. Hlabano added that she cannot dispute allegations that some lawyers do not know about the practice, but denied that the system is shrouded in secrecy.
As a solution to this problem, she said, government will recruit and retain senior lawyers.

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