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Kenya Breaking News

Governors tell Senate why they hire law firms

Mary Mwiti

Governors have sought to justify why they hire private legal consultants when they have established the Office of the County Attorney.

In submissions to the Senate, Council of Governors CEO Mary Mwiti said the engagement of external lawyers by counties is a strategic and necessary practice aimed at ensuring the highest quality of legal representation and expertise.

“This approach is consistent with established practices at the international, national level and among other state institutions, reflecting a commitment to leveraging specialized expertise to address complex legal challenges,” Mwiti said.

The Senate Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee and Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations Committee are considering a petition seeking to bar counties from hiring lawyers.

Grassroot Civilian Oversight Initiative executive director Laban Omusundi petitioned the House to pass legislation to stop governors from outsourcing legal services.

He wants the Senate to come up with a legal framework to prevent loss of money in legal fees.

In her responses, Mwiti explained that allowing counties to engage legal expertise ultimately serves the best interests of the public by ensuring that counties can navigate the diverse landscape effectively and efficiently.

“We urge the Senate to dismiss the petition as it seeks to infringe upon the practical and necessary measures that county governments take to ensure effective legal representation in the interests of counties,” Mwiti added.

She assured the Senate that the engagement with lawyers would be undertaken professionally and within the law.

Mwiti further told the Senate that legal counsels in counties are remunerated below their counterparts at the Office of the Attorney General’s office and Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions despite being in the same job group.

“This pay disparity makes it difficult for county governments to attract top talent at the entry-level, provide proper training, retain skilled staff, and build the capacity needed to handle all legal matters without hiring private firms with the needed expertise,” she said.

She added that from time immemorial, the Office of the AG has sought the expertise of external lawyers in legal matters despite being a fully constituted office with state counsel.

She further added that other state institutions also engage the expertise of external lawyers who specialize in various areas of law.

Devolved units have accumulated pending bills of more than Sh56 billion in legal fees alone, with Nairobi leading with more than Sh21 billion, according to reports of the Auditor General.

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