Attorney General, Sackeus Shanghala, has brushed aside protests by Finance Minister, Calle Schlettwein, by ordering the release of N$31 million to a group of UK-based lawyers, who included questionable administrative charges in their invoices.
The Windhoek Observer understands that Government paid the foreign lawyers N$31 million two weeks ago, despite a public outcry about the outrageously high legal fees.
This brings to N$41 million the total amount of money that Government has so far paid to the lawyers after the Windhoek Observer reported earlier in June that the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation had already paid N$10.6 million in April this year for the “legal work” done by the lawyers.
Investigations by the Windhoek Observer this week established that Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Issaskar Ndjoze, was instructed by Shanghala between May and June to approve the payment to the lawyers, who are purportedly assisting the Government in genocide negotiations.
Ndjoze confirmed processing the invoices and sending them to the ministry of finance on 24 July.
The lawyers are: Dexter Dias, Cameron Miles, Richard Reynolds, Paul Clark and Anna Uukelo, a former school mate of Shanghala.
The case has not gone to court yet and most of these lawyers are barristers who focus on arguing in court (advocacy) rather than preliminary legal work.
It is not yet clear at this stage when the other N$5 million would be paid or if additional invoices for legal expenses are expected.
Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein confirmed to the Windhoek Observer that the N$31 million had already been paid to the UK based lawyers.
“I can confirm that the money has been paid. We received approval from the Justice PS to release the money. He said that the services have been provided by the lawyers in full and that he was satisfied with their work.
“The money was paid in separate accounts of each and every lawyer,” Schlettwein said.
Asked whether he was comfortable with releasing the money to foreign lawyers, whose work has been disputed, Schlettwein said there was no “value for money at all.”
“I should, however, add that these lawyers have sued the Namibian Government over delays in getting their money. The delays were because we were experiencing problems due to the fact that the money was not budgeted for in the previous financial year and we had to include it in this year’s budget. I recently instructed the Government attorney to defend the case,” Schlettwein said.
The foreign lawyers were appointed solely by Shanghala to assist with genocide negotiations in which the Government is seeking over N$400 billion in compensation from Germany for their well-documented genocide against the Ovaherero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908.
Shanghala’s move to appoint foreign lawyers was questioned by local legal experts who queried why he had appointed outside experts to assist Government on the matter when local legal expertise was readily available.
ACC inquiry in vain
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has since launched an investigating into the matter after the Windhoek Observer’s expose in June, but it appears that the investigation has been in vain. ACC Director General, Paulus Noa, confirmed the investigation into the matter, saying that he had written a letter to the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation and Deputy Prime Minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, last month questioning the legitimacy of the invoices submitted and the amount of funds committed for payment.
The leaked letter from Noa to Nandi-Ndaitwah, dated July 10, 2017 reads:
“It has not only drawn tremendous public interest, but also led to various questions such as the following which we trust that your good office will be in a position to answer: Has the cabinet committee on genocide been consulted and was the genocide assignment to UK lawyers a result of their deliberation?
“As a rule, the office of the Attorney General is the responsible entity for furnishing legal advice to Government. The decision to make use of UK lawyers, therefore, appears to be one of outsourcing. Could it in this regard be indicated whether the relevant procedures with regard to outsourcing were followed.
“Have the legal costs that have been referred to in the media as approximately N$47 million been budgeted for by your ministry?”
It wasn’t me
Several Government officials told the Windhoek Observer this week that Nandi-Ndaitwah has not been co-operating with the graft-busting agency.
Contacted for comment, Nandi-Ndaitwah said she will not discuss with the media what she had said to Noa on the issue.
“I responded to Noa and have received an acknowledgement on that, but that communication is between me and Noa and not for you to know,”Nandi-Ndaitwah said.
When pressed further, Noa explained that Nandi-Ndaitwah had told him that she was not responsible for hiring the lawyers or any matters pertaining to the genocide negotiations, as that was the remit of the genocide technical committee which operates under the office of the vice president.
The committee headed by Namibia’s Special Envoy, Dr Zed Ngavirue and its Chairperson Tonata Itenge-Emvula, has previously said that they had no say in the appointment of the UK based lawyers or the payments to them.
This is not the first time that Nandi-Ndaitwah and Shanghala have come under fire over the issue.
In April, Schlettwein wrote a letter to the deputy premier seeking clarification on the legal fees to be paid to the foreign lawyers, including Namibian-born lawyer, Uukelo.
In her response, dated 5 June, Nandi-Ndaitwah told Schlettwein that her office could not confirm or validate the work performed, but she, however, advised Schlettwein to pay the lawyers to avoid the accumulation of interest.
Invoices in possession of the Windhoek Observer shows that the lawyers are claiming money (in hard currency) for mundane and possibly specious expenses like waiting for Shanghala at a London airport, sending emails, messages and receiving air tickets.
Ngavirue told the Windhoek Observer recently that no progress has been made to date by his technical committee since they submitted documents to the German Government more than a year ago, on 1 July 2016.