A Nairobi law firm is in court seeking half a billion shillings from City Hall for fees in what is set to put more pressure on Nairobi County beset by huge controversial legal bills.
Munikah & Company Advocates claims that the County government has failed to settle the Sh573 million legal fees after it represented the defunct City Council of Nairobi in suit against the central government.
The law firm says successfully defended City Hall when Attorney-General made a Sh13.2 billion counter-claim against the defunct council, which was seeking Sh1.56 billion for unpaid land rates.
The claim by AG was dismissed, paving the way for the County to demand the land rates in a ruling that saw the law firm tie its legal fee to the Sh13.2 billion.
The Sh573 million demand, which is billed as one of the highest, comes at a time Nairobi governor Evans Kidero is carrying out a forensic audit on the county’s legal bills — which is in excess of Sh1.5 billion.
“The plaintiff prays for judgment against the defendant for Sh573,365,943.25 with interest at 14 per cent from the date of filing this suit until payment in full,” states the suit filed on October 9.
The task force appointed by Dr Kidero will audit the legal fees and the status of ongoing cases.
There are suspicion that some staff may have been colluding with litigants to fleece City Hall through compromised representation and arguments to defeat justice at the expense of the County Government.
The County has a legal department that has retained several advocates to represent them in suits City Hall is entangled in and lawyers scramble to be part of Nairobi’s contractors.
The genesis of the dispute handled by the Munikah & Company dates back 10 years ago, when City Hall retained the law firm to recover all outstanding rates levied on the land owned by government ministries.
In February 2003, the law firm filed a suit in court to compel the government to pay Sh1.4 billion to the council as the outstanding land rates, which was later increased to Sh1.56 billion.
Then Attorney-General Amos Wako, now Busia Senator, acting on behalf of commissioner of lands, filed a Sh13.3 billion counter-claim against the council in February 2008.
The law firm filed an objection to the AG’s counter-claim, prompting the High Court to reject Mr Wako’s moves in a ruling delivered in October 2008.
“On the March 31, 2011 the plaintiff herein served upon the council a draft Advocate and client itemised bill of costs amounting to Sh498, 815,246.25 in respect of fees and disbursements, due from the council to the plaintiff, arising from the dismissal of the AG’s counter claim,” says the law firm.
The law firm says the council never responded to its claim after which it moved to Taxing Master and filed the formal advocate bill of costs.
Taxing Master assesses legal costs against the service rendered.
The Council sent its lawyer to the Taxing Master. The deputy Registrar of High court who usually doubles as Taxing Master delivered the ruling in August last year and awarded the law firm Sh498.8 million.
The law firm now seeks the Sh573.4 million, which is the legal fees and the accrued interest from last year.
The law firm on July 15 wrote to County Government asking City Hall to settle the whole outstanding legal fees in 14 days or they move to court.
The law firm wrote to the County government again on August 5, expressing its frustration. The final letter was on October 4 informing City Hall of intention to seek legal redress.
“Having not responded, we are, now, proceeding to file a recovery suit against you, in Court,” reads the October 4 letter in part.