Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday requested the Attorney General Athaliah Molokomme to explain why it would seem that government was favouring private engagement of certain law firms in particular Collins Newman and Co to handle certain legal cases against government.
This, however, did not sit well with the Attorney General who immediately took a few minutes taunting the legislators as she felt it was not within their rights as provided by the parliamentary standing orders to ask her about a matter that was not contained in her executive summary to the committee.
After highlighting her displeasure to the PAC and stating that she was just being polite by responding to them, Molokomme denied that Collins Newman & Co was favoured over other law firms, saying she had on several occasions given business to many other law firms.
Molokomme, however, noted that the Attorney General’s chambers were often forced to seek service from outside because they are unable to retain senior skilled counsels from D scale upwards. This, she said, was a challenge. She denied that she often outsourced such service especially to Collins Newman and Co out of duress, saying she only does so when the situation required and out of necessity. “I have given work to a lot of law firms around. I do not know why Collins Newman & Co happens to attract attention,” she said.
She told the PAC that the government law firm is unable to supply the number of skilled senior counsels required by the legal environment and as the principal legal advisor to government she will continue to recommend outsourcing when she sees it fit.
The human resource challenge that the Directorate of Public Prosecutions was facing, according to Molokomme, was the reason why police officers were still handling prosecutions to this day. She said although they had launched a takeover project of all cases due for prosecution from the police to the DPP, the project has experienced difficulties and was currently suspended. “Police officers will continue assisting the DPP,” she said.
She, however, noted that there should be notable change in the next 18 months as the DPP is currently recruiting prosecutors from Botswana Police Services who have immense experience in prosecutions, adding that a lot of them were currently pursuing their law degrees.
Despite the huge vacancy levels at the DPP, Molokomme told the PAC that they have engaged interns to assist.