Submitted by Paula Sealy
Attorney General Dale Marshall has defended Government’s hiring of private lawyers to provide legal representation for the State, saying that the Solicitor General’s Department, is understaffed.
Responding to an editorial recently published in a local newspaper about the Mia Mottley Government engaging with private legal services, when the administration has the Solicitor General’s Chambers at its disposal, Marshall told the House that with just 20 lawyers currently working in that office, often in multiple roles, the Government had no choice but to employ private lawyers for tasks on behalf of the administration.
“The lawyers at the SG’s chambers are operating in circumstances where today you may be at work as a lawyer and tomorrow they call and tell you that you are the magistrate at District “A”, and you are there for six months and the work comes to an end. They then call you and tell you that you are back in chambers for a month, but after that you are going to the Supervisor of Bankruptcy.AG defends giving Govt’s work to private-practice lawyers
Are any of these private lawyers going to work on legislation to do with transparency or integrity?
Following his reports over the years you could only wonder what the Auditor General will say about this news.
A. The 2018 report:
For years I have been complaining of a shortage of staff and there is little evidence that this matter is being addressed. This shortage will continue to impact both the timely output and, ultimately, the quality of work since even if new officers are provided, they will have to be trained before they can make a meaningful contribution to the Office. The Office is quite willing to examine alternative ways of conducting its work and this could include the hiring of individuals on contract to assist with any auditing backlogs. In this regard, greater autonomy in the use of resources would assist with this process.
B. The 2019 report:
Selection of Attorneys
3.6 The review revealed that some attorneys/firms engaged by the SOEs were selected by Cabinet, others by the Board of Management and/or the Minister responsible for the SOE. However, the Auditors were not provided with a clear basis for the selection of the legal counsel by these
agencies/authorities. The engagement of the attorneys/firms was stated to be due to the absence of legal counsel on staff at some agencies; and the complexity and volume of legal matters to be dealt with, for others.
Basis for Fees
3.7 The total amount of fees reported as paid by the entities who submitted information was over $7 million, with the amount of fees paid to individual attorneys/firms, ranging from $500 to $4 million for work done over the
review period. Generally, there was an absence of evidence to indicate that the basis or rates/fees paid to the attorneys were agreed on prior to services being provided.
3.8 Four (4) of the eight (8) agencies examined indicated that fees charged were generally based on the Legal Profession (Attorneys-at-Law) (Remuneration for Non-Contentious Business) Rules, 1997 (hereinafter referred to as the Legal Profession Rules or the Rules). However, there are legal services which are not explicitly captured in the stated Rules resulting in the basis of the rates/fees not being established in these instances.
3.9 Another two (2) agencies indicated that the General Counsel on staff was responsible for verifying the fees. Whereas, the other two (2) agencies provided no information on the basis for the fees charged by the attorneys.
(C) The 2020 report:
In the past I have expressed concern over the significant number of vacancies which continue to exist in the Office, and how it negatively impacted on the Office fulfilling its mandate. This continues to be the case but has been mitigated somewhat by the manner in which the Office conducts its work, for example the reduction in the amount of sampling of transactions with instead a greater focus on those areas which are considered as more risk prone.