One of the lawyers who acted for the electoral agency during the 2013 presidential election petition earned a tidy sum of Sh2.9 million a day for the 14-day period of the petition.
Documents presented by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday show how the taxpayer had to bear the heavy burden of paying 14 law firms involved in the matter, even as MPs raised concern that some of them never appeared in court.
Although documents before PAC showed he was not the lead lawyer in the petition, the firm of Mr Ahmednasir Abdullahi was paid Sh40 million by the commission to represent former chairman Issack Hassan who was a respondent as the returning officer for presidential poll.
Once a presidential election petition is filed, the Supreme Court has 14 days within which to hear and dispense of the matter.
Mr Abdullahi’s Sh40 million, therefore, translates to Sh2.9 million per day.
On the other hand, lawyer Aurelio Rebelo, who is named as the lead counsel for the commission, was paid Sh10 million less than Mr Abdullahi.
In total, the agency paid out Sh380 million to the 14 law firms involved, with the lowest earning Sh25 million for the 14 days or Sh1.8 million a day.
But Mr Abdullahi has insisted he was the lead lawyer.
“Going by what we charge as senior lawyers, that was the lowest amount (Sh40 million). They could not afford the original fee.
“I was the lead counsel in the case and anybody disputing that is misleading. How could I have allowed a junior counsel to lead me,” Mr Abdullahi said while justifying the money he was paid.
Mohamed Muigai Advocates, the law firm where former Attorney-General Githu Muigai was a partner, was among those that were paid Sh30 million.
Another law firm in the Sh30 million bracket was Mr Paul Nyamodi’s V A Nyamodi & Co Advocates.
Mr Nyamodi also acted for the agency in similar petitions following the August 2017 election.
The law firms that walked to the bank with Sh25 million each include Sisule Munyi Kilonzo and Associates, Gerane and Associates Advocates, Gumbo and Associates Advocates, Murugu Rigoro and Co Advocates, and A B Patel & Co Advocates.
The commission also paid Sh25 million each to Sigei and Associates and Co Advocates, Muriu Mungai and Co Advocates, L M Kambuni and Associates Advocates, Iseme Kamau and Maema Advocates and Kimani Muhoro and Co Advocates.
Other than Mr Nyamodi, Ms Lucy Kambuni of L M Kambuni and Associates Advocates and Mr Kamau Karori of Iseme Kamau and Maema Advocates, were also part of the commission’s legal team during the two presidential petitions in 2017.
MPs raised concern over the high fees the commission had been paying to lawyers, with some reading collusion between the agency’s staff and the lawyers to defraud taxpayers millions of shillings in legal fees.
Committee chairman and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi said the cost indicates that doing business with the commission is very lucrative.
“If in only one presidential case the commission spends Sh1 billion, then it seems to be a very lucrative business engaging IEBC,” he said.
Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo said he has been in the court corridors for a long time, but has never seen such kind of money paid for legal representation.
Appearing before the committee, the agency’s chief executive officer Ezra Chiloba explained that the Sh40 million was reached after a negotiation as Mr Abdullahi was even demanding more.
Mr Chiloba explained that the payment was based on qualification, noting that there was “shortage” of good lawyers in Nairobi.
He appeared before the committee alongside commissioners Paul Kurgat and Margaret Mwachanya.
In his audit report, Auditor-General Edward Ouko had found that the poll agency paid 68 lawyers it hired for presidential and other petitions an extra Sh1 billion.
“The commission has not provided documentary evidence of cases represented and payments thereof to justify and support payments in excess of recorded pending bills,” the report said.
Another Sh17.8 million was also paid to five law firms that were not prequalified to represent the commission in the courts.