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MPs debate Attorney Generals Chambers budget

15 Mar 2023

Legislators have appealed to government to act promptly and capacitate the newly established Law Reform Unit under Attorney General’s Chamber (AG’s) owing to the urgent need to revisit varied legislative pieces that are no longer serving purpose.

Debating the proposed recurrent and development budget estimates for the Attorney General’s Chambers on Tuesday, Member of Parliament of Gaborone Bonnington North, Ms Annah

Mokgethi said the Laws Reform Unit which was recently established under the Legislative Drafting Department was a welcome development, though not fully operational.

Ms Mokgethi said establishment of the unit came at an opportune time when some pieces of legislation were to be reviewed to fully serve their purpose.

“Our laws are obsolete, they need to be reviewed therefore as long as the Laws Reform Unit is not fully capacitated, it will not timely review pieces of legislation that needed attention and promulgate the new laws,” said Ms Mokgethi.

Mahalapye East MP, Mr Yandani Boko argued that though given a mammoth task of representing government in litigations, the Attorney General’s Chambers was running short of personnel skilled in drafting and conducting special litigations.

Mr Boko said the organisation used to be well equipped with requisite personnel, adding that most of the skilled and experienced attorneys had left the chamber for private practice.

“Those who have been there and experienced left for greener pastures,” said Mr Boko, adding that the situation had resulted in government, when faced with complex matters, engaging attorneys from outside the country.

MP Boko also said there was a challenge in settling payments for attorneys that were engaged by government on pro-deo basis.

Though appreciating that their tariffs had been reviewed and were now much better, Mr Boko was concerned about the delayed payments.

For his part, Okavango MP, Mr Kenny Kapinga argued that the current times called for transformative leadership.

“The AG’s chambers must be seen to be playing its role which must be clearly defined and where necessary delegate some of the functions to some of its support structures,” he said.

He said since government ministries and departments had in-house attorneys, the AG’s must fully utilise their services.

He added that minor litigations from ministries and departments must be delegated to attorneys at those respective units, while attorneys at AG’s focused only on high profile civil suits involving millions of Pula.

“Mr Minister, engage yourself, transform the AG’s and leave a legacy behind,” he said.

He further said it was unfortunate to observe that the AG’s was wasting time and resources on baseless cases.

He said cases must be followed based on the fact that there was evidence and that there were realistic prospects of success and that such an issue was of public interest.

“We must not be seen to be vindictive and malicious in our decision to prosecute. The AG’s must act following the law and there was evidence in that regard,” he said.

Also, he said in the past the AG’s used to be showered with accolades for giving the best professional advice in terms of the law.

Of recent, Mr Kapinga said, their decision making was questionable.

The legislator added that it was important that government attorneys were regularly trained to broaden their knowledge base and sharpen their skills.

“I am concerned that your proposed budget does not reflect funds earmarked for their training. There is no mention of sharpening their skills to deal with among others organised crime. It appears that your ministry has no desire to transform,” he said.

Presenting the proposed recurrent and development budget estimates for the 2023/2024 financial year prior, Minister of Justice, Mr Machana Shamukuni explained that the AG’s was mandated with providing quality legal services to government.

Mr Shamukuni said as one of the measures to improve the laws of the country, the Law Reform Unit was established.

However, he said efforts to appoint an expert to lead the division were yet to be finalised. Currently, he said, an officer within the AG’s was appointed to lead the unit, adding that its functionality was currently minimal.

Acknowledging concerns from legislators, Mr Shamukuni concurred that Law Reform Unit must be fully resourced.

“Government must move with pace in revisiting some pieces of the legislation to ensure that they are at par with the changing environment and serve their purpose,” he said.

The minister also acknowledged that placement of legal officers at ministries and departments was moving accordingly and their purpose was to provide legal service on the spot as and when required.

Meanwhile, legislators thumbed up the proposed budget for AG’s which comprised over P328 million and P24.3 million under both recurrent and development budgets respectively.

Mr Shamukuni said the recurrent budget had increased by 26 per cent from over P261 million that was allocated in the 2022/2023 financial year. Ends

Source : BOPA

Author : Moshe Galeragwe

Location : Gaborone

Event : Parliament

Date : 15 Mar 2023