Nairobi ward representatives have raised concerns over perennial understaffing at the Office of County Attorney, which has seen 50 external lawyers claim Sh6 billion in legal fees.
Ward representatives have accused the county government of deliberately failing to prioritise hiring its own legal personnel, in what has set up City Hall for exorbitant legal fees.
County Attorney Lydia Kwamboka said she has raised the matter on several occasions but the Nairobi County Public Service Board has turned a deaf ear despite a budget for the hiring of legal personnel being allocated.
“I am totally understaffed and I have written to the board on several occasions and they are not doing anything about it. The board chairperson told me that when he wants to advertise he is stopped but he doesn’t say who tells him to wait,” said Ms Kwamboka.
Mabatini MCA Wilfred Odalo decried why the county executive continues to incur huge costs in engaging external lawyers when legal staff for the county can handle all matters.
“The external advocates charge exorbitant legal fees when the same could have been affordable if the county had its substantive legal personnel,” said Mr Odalo.
“This sad state of affairs has been in existence since the inception of county governments which has perennially necessitated the county government to outsource most of its legal services,” he added.
The county attorney said her office needs a minimum of 35 lawyers where 20 will be those going to court while the remaining sit in the office to give instructions.
Recently, Ms Kwamboka requested the board for 17 positions but no advertisement was made despite having a budget for the same. She said her aim is to cut the legal fees paid to external lawyers.
“We can train our in-house advocates to do the same work because the more we contract the external advocates, the more our pending bills rise,” she said.
“They should act with urgency but nobody seems to hear me. If we have the in-house staff we don’t want to pay those ridiculous legal fees,” added the county attorney.
Consequently, the MCAs want chairpersons of two committees Justice and Legal Affairs, and Labour and Social Welfare to inquire and report on reasons why the county executive continues to incur huge costs in engaging external lawyers.
They also want to know the total number of lawyers the office of the County Attorney has, the present personnel establishment in the office of the County Attorney and the shortfall or deficit of legal and para-legal staff required to fill up the existing structures.