Staff Reporter Windhoek-Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein has called on the relevant authorities to thoroughly investigate any and all discrepancies related to the N$36 million paid to lawyers in the United Kingdom to research and review documents on the early 20th century genocide in Namibia in order to advise the government on how to approach Germany over the issue.This comes after Attorney General Sacky Shanghala had hired Namibian and European lawyers for N$36 million to research and review documents on the genocide provide the government with legal advice. Schlettwein said prior to the payments being made the matter was referred to the auditor-general and the Anti-Corruption Commission for further investigation. “In addition, and because of the court action being launched against the government of Namibia, the government attorney was instructed to approach the relevant British authorities vested with verifying the different charges invoiced by the British lawyers. “This action is still continuing and the government attorney is seized with the matter,” he said in the National Assembly last week. During the period April to July, he said the Office of the Attorney General re-submitted the request for payment to the UK-based lawyers at an estimated cost of N$36 million (subject to exchange rate fluctuations). The accounting officer responsible for Vote 35 of the Office of the Attorney General was requested to submit the relevant invoices and to verify that the services were properly sourced and that the services had been satisfactorily rendered. Schlettwein noted that after a careful review of the documents submitted pertaining to the payment of advocates Anna Uukelo, Dexter Diaz (Queen’s Counsel), Cameron Miles, Richard Reynolds and Paul Clark (lawyers) some worrying observations were made. These include that records appeared to be incomplete, as fee arrangements and the terms of engagement signed with the lawyers were not included, charges invoiced appeared excessive, and several other discrepancies were noted in the information provided by the lawyers in their invoices. Schlettwein said on July 28 after various consultations with the Office of the Attorney General, Treasury was informed that the said lawyers had proceeded with court action against the Namibian government. It was then considered in the best interest of the country to make the payment and thereafter to investigate the observed shortcomings. He said this was decided to avoid additional legal costs, to protect Namibia’s properties in the UK against possible attachments, and to avoid possible blacklisting of Namibia in the UK. “It is our submission that all the questionable matters are referred and investigated by institutions that have the legal mandate to ensure that suspect behaviour is investigated and, if need be, brought to book. “We therefore want to suggest that these institutions, namely the auditor-general, The Anti-Corruption Commission and the government attorney are tasked to finalise their investigation and report back to this House.” The finance minister said the difficulty started during the last quarter of the 2016/17 financial year, when a request was made by the Office of the Attorney General for the payment of the mentioned legal fees. However, the expense had not been budgeted for. The State Finance Act prohibits payments for expenditure that was not budgeted for and therefore the request for payment could not be honoured at the time. However, he said, to avoid the threat of the Namibian Embassy in London being attached and further penalties being imposed, arrangements were made for the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation to partially settle invoices to the tune of N$3,365 million. He said the outstanding amount was then budgeted for under the Budget Vote of the Attorney General under a provision for unpaid invoices from the 2016/17 financial year.
2017-11-09 09:01:10 10 months ago