Gauteng govt explains private legal bills
Johannesburg - The Gauteng government confirmed on Monday that it was spending more on private lawyers than state lawyers, but denied a Democratic Alliance suggestion that this was because it did not trust its own counsel.
In response to questions tabled in the legislature by the DA, the Gauteng government said it had spent R7m on private attorneys for litigation and legal matters, and R6.5m on state attorneys.
"I believe that this is a vote of no confidence by the MEC in her own legal team and that the department should either employ more attorneys or outsource the entire legal section," said DA MPL Khume Ramulifho.
Education department spokesperson Charles Phahlane said that in accordance with the questions submitted, it had explained that the department employed private attorneys from a "Legal Body Shop of Attorneys" that was created through an open public tender process.
They use the following criteria to determine whether to engage private attorneys: the urgency of the matter; whether the matter requires independent handling and the nature and complexity of the matter.
"So you can see that there is no basis to conclude that we don’t trust state attorneys. This is a DA attempt to score cheap political points," said Phahlane by e-mail in response to a request for comment.
"In Gauteng, we are dealing with a system that has two million learners, 90 000 staff members and 2 300 schools. Obviously, when you are dealing with a system as big as this one, there will be a need to engage legal services."
He said all funds were budgeted for by the provincial government.