The State Law Office cannot account for at least Sh394.8 million largely used as legal fees for six international law firms that represented Kenya at the International Court of Justice in its maritime boundary dispute with Somalia.
The payment was highly inflated and taxpayers may not have got value for the expenditure, says Auditor-General Edward Ouko’s report for the 2017/18 financial year.
Mr Ouko notes in the report tabled in the Senate: “In addition, out of the total payments of Sh420,506,285, only payment authorities amounting to Sh25,703,123 were availed for audit verification, leaving a balance of Sh394,803,162 unsupported.”
Prof Githu Muigai was the Attorney-General and Mr Njee Muturi the Solicitor-General at the time Kenya hired the law firms to defend its maritime territorial integrity after Somalia took the matter to The Hague-based court in August 2014.
Prof Muigai left last year and was replaced by former Court of Appeal judge Kihara Kariuki. Mr Ken Ogeto replaced Mr Muturi as the principal assistant to the Attorney-General.
Mr Ouko questioned how the State Law Office single-handedly determined the legal fees paid to the lawyers, noting that the procurement procedure was seriously flawed.
The six law firms were among 17 hired on December 14, 2017.
They include London-based Marbdy Consulting Ltd (Sh2.15 million), Prof Vaughan Lowe (Sh2.86 million), Prof Alan Boyle (Sh2.42 million) and Ms Army Sander (Sh1.78 million).
On the same day, the auditor says, the government also hired Prof Mathias Forteau of France for Sh2.64 million.
On December 14, 2018, the State Law Office contracted another French lawyer, Prof Payam Akhavan, for Sh13.12 million.
In February this year, the Kenya-Somalia maritime dispute escalated into a diplomatic row after Nairobi expelled Somalia’s ambassador Mohamoud Ahmed Nur and recalled its envoy Lucas Tumbo.
The tiff came after Nairobi accused Mogadishu of auctioning oil exploration rights in a disputed part of the Indian Ocean.
But Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau would later deny expulsion claims, saying that Nairobi had only “summoned” her envoy and asked his Somali counterpart to leave for consultations on their side.