An innocuous enquiry to the Attorney General (AG) to disclose the government legal bill from Collins Newman & Company got Dr. Ataliah Molokomme boiling with rage.
Previously, the AG could not provide the information as the Industrial Court case between the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions and the Directorate on Public Sector Management was ongoing.
The government was represented by Collins Newman & Company law firm.
Sources allege the law firm has billed the government P3.5 million in legal fees ÔÇô a claim refuted by Parks Tafa of Collins Newman.
“That is rubbish,” he said. “Our legal bill is nowhere near that,” Tafa said without disclosing how much the law firm had billed the government, ostensibly to protect client lawyer confidentiality, despite the fact that the taxpayer, who is going to foot the bill, is, by extension, also a client to the law firm.
The principal legal advisor to the government does not know what the fuss is all about regarding outsourcing of legal services to Collins Newman & Company.
“We have outsourced legal services to many law firms. Why do you have so much interest in this law firm?” an irritated Molokomme asked, only to be told that Collins Newman & Company’s clientele, whether by design or coincidence, include President Ian Khama’s family, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party and it occasionally provides legal services to the government.
“I am not happy with your newspaper. I cannot divorce you from your editors and your other work colleagues. You all work for the same newspaper,” Molokomme said.
But no, the Attorney General, who said she was having lunch with the visiting US First Lady, Michelle Obama, had to make a point, for the benefit of this reporter and the Sunday Standard editors.
And her point?
She is not amused by the bad press she has been receiving from the Sunday Standard.
She specifically referred to an article written a month ago headlined ‘Molokomme, Khama bad blood is boiling’ which she regards as inaccurate and damaging to her status.
In it, the Sunday Standard insinuated, on the basis of sources closer to the inner workings of the government enclave, that Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo remains in cabinet despite the corruption charges slapped on him by the AG Chambers as a result of the reshaping of attitudes by the Office of the President towards her.
The article said the AG’s alleged advice to the President led to the sacking of the former Assistant Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Guma Moyo, but the Directorate of Public Prosecutions could not find sufficient evidence to prosecute.
The article further said the former Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse, had to resign to face a graft charge following Molokomme’s advice even as Khama did not want his cousin to resign.
The AG warned she was not going to be dictated to by newspapers when to respond to their enquiries.
“I work on my deadlines. I don’t work on your deadlines,” she fumed.
When it was pointed out to her that she was, in this instance, given sufficient time to respond to our enquiry, the AG did not disagree and added she had instructed the Civil Division to provide a detailed response.
According to Molokomme, the belated detailed response would demonstrate that many law firms other than Collins Newman & Company, including opposition Botswana National Front lawyers, have provided legal services to the government.