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.
“These are the things that present difficulty – now you may not worry about that on the average case, but on matters of significant import, it is important for the government to obtain the best legal representation that it can, and to see the matters through quickly.”
Marshall chastised the previous administration and stressed that the then Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration, allowed exorbitant fees to be freely charged by many lawyers contracted by them, while no semblance of due diligence was seemingly done to guarantee that the fees paid to these lawyers, corresponded to work actually done.
He noted that the current administration has sought to stamp out such activities, by having fully transparent contracts and oversight being done.
“They have to sign an engagement letter which sets out with great detail the service they are to provide, the hourly rate that they are going to charge and their commitment to regular billing and so on. It has allowed us to plan our work, it has given the Government the benefit of some of the best legal minds available in Bridgetown, and we have got cases started and finished in a two-year period.
“Dedicated work and the results delivered and the invoices have been for a fraction of those monstrous invoices that were submitted under the last administration, some of which are still hanging around our necks like albatrosses.”
He further added, “We are insisting on accountability; we are insisting on transparency, and best of all, we are getting value for money. Not one of the invoices that have come to the government since I have been AG and getting private lawyers to do work, not one of them has added up to more than $250000. The raping of the coffers of the state is at an end.” (SB)