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Government burdened by lawsuits

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 20 – The government is at risk of losing more than Sh10 billion in settling civil litigation cases filed against it by individuals and institutions, Solicitor General Wanjuki Muchemi said on Monday.

Mr Muchemi added that there were over 50,000 lawsuits presently facing the government that ranged from claims of human rights abuses to unlawful termination of employment.

He argued that the losses suffered by the Exchequer might derail the country’s development agenda.

“The new Bill of Rights occupies over 40 pages of the new Constitution. These are new rights that have been given to Kenyans who can now, more than ever, take their grievances to court. The pressure on the civil litigation department and the Office of the Attorney General (AG) will be immense,” he said.

He however observed that the government was already taking steps to reduce the damages on the country’s financial reserves by increasing the number of state legal counsel in every county.

Mr Muchemi, who spoke after opening a consultative workshop on the dissemination of the new Civil Procedures 2010, added that the government was spending close to Sh300 million in the new recruitments.

“We are employing at least two State Counsel in every county and then we have been given authorisation to hire an additional 188 counsel. We hope that this process will be done quickly so that the new counsel report for duty in February,” he argued.

He also urged interested persons to apply for the positions while at the same time pleading with the current state counsel not to quit. He promised that their salaries and perks would be reviewed once the Cabinet approved a memo on the issue.

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“A lot of people are leaving because it is not easy. You can imagine working on all holidays and weekends but with a pay that is literally peanuts. We are however working on having that situation rectified and these salaries will be increased,” he said.

The Solicitor General also noted that the new appointees would help reduce the workload on the present state counsel.

“At the moment every state counsel handles about 400 cases so you can imagine the pressure on these people. These are mostly young lawyers who always work overtime,” he said.

Mr Muchemi further observed that so far only 28 ministries, out of 42 including the Office of the AG, had complied with the directive to set up internal legal departments.

He asked those that had not yet honored the directive to do so as that the move would facilitate civil matters between them and the Office of the AG.

“These offices will be covering routine cases as well as advising the Permanent Secretaries on legal issues that come up. Because PSs need someone who has specialised in legal work to show them the way forward,” he said.

He was however, unable to name the ministries that were yet to comply.

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