New Attorney General ( AG ) Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda says putting a stop to dubious settlement of claims and disciplining errant lawyers will top the agenda during his tenure as chief government legal adviser.
In an exclusive interview with The Nation in Lilongwe on Tuesday, he said his office will start by reviewing payments made through various settlements with contractors and suppliers.
Nyirenda, who replaced Chikosa Silungwe last month said the move is meant to address wastage of public resources.
He said there is need for sanity in how the government handles issues of compensation and default judgements.
Nyirenda said: “We need to address issues of default judgements. We need to recruit more lawyers to alleviate the problem and to avert compensations. I would like to prevent the loss of government [money] to the best of [my] ability.”
But the new AG fell short on specifying the contracts he is targeting to review, only hinting that he will be reviewing those that raised eyebrows based on circumstances involved.
Said Nyirenda: “If the claims are payable, then they must be within the law. Where there are court
orders, it is mostly difficult to review, but there might be circumstances for us to review such cases as well.”
He said he has also set his sights on new cases being referred to his office now.
Nyirenda added that the AG’s office will work with the Malawi Law Society (MLS) to tackle concerns about lawyers behaving unethically, including swindling clients out of their money.
In recent years, MLS
has come under the public spotlight with some sections of society accusing the body of allegedly shielding errant lawyers at the expense of poor clients.
The law society last year said there were scores of complaints from people about the conduct of lawyers, but the society can only deal with them within the limitations of the current law.
Nyirenda said while the malpractice was being conducted by “a tiny minority” of lawyers, it was giving the legal fraternity a bad name.
He said: “It’s a serious concern by the public, but also among the lawyers. There are a few cases of indiscipline which dents the image of the whole legal fraternity. There are so many lawyers who behave ethically.
“I will make sure that justice takes its course. I am aware that the MLS disciplinary committee is now vibrant. Some cases will come to my office and cases will reach their finality.”
Nyirenda said lawyers will have to handle their cases transparently and ethically.
He said: “In pure cases of theft, we will call law enforcement agencies to intervene. If need be, the office of the AG will handle it. ”
Nyirenda is currently leading the State legal team in a case where the five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court is hearing a petition by the former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to nullify the court-sanctioned fresh presidential election held on June 23 2020.
He said his office is involved because DPP sued the office of AG in the matter; hence, they have no choice.
His predecessor Kalekeni Kaphale was previously faulted by the Constitutional Court for representing the Malawi Electoral Commission in the presidential election nullification petition.
Nyirenda, who took office on August 27, becomes Malawi’s 19th chief legal adviser for the government. He previously worked for the Reserve Bank of Malawi as a lawyer