Avid Inquiry – Time to Count Costs

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By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek Apart from the loss of the N$100 million and the N$30 million of the Offshore Development Company (ODC) and Social Security Commission (SSC) respectively, Namibia’s taxpayers continue to pay exorbitant amounts in legal fees, auditors’ fees and for official travels of those involved in the search for the missing millions. New Era has reliably learned that the SSC paid N$1 million in legal costs during the Avid High Court Inquiry, as well as for preparations for the disciplinary hearings of the former Chief Executive Officer Tuli Hiveluah and suspended General Manager of Finance and Administration Avril Green. In terms of the Law Society’s legal tariffs, lawyers who have been admitted for more than 15 years such as Andrew Corbett do not charge less than N$12 000 per day for appearance fees, while lawyers such as Patrick Kauta who have been admitted for close to 10 years could charge N$8 000 per day. The SSC enlisted the services of three lawyers during the two-month inquiry at the High Court. The SSC team consisted of Corbett, Kauta and Rocco Kauta and thus paid no less than N$20 000 per day, which accumulated to N$100 000 per week in appearance fees alone. The Avid Inquiry lasted more than two months in the High Court and thus it is estimated that the SSC forked out not less than N$800 000 in legal fees during the two months. This amount excludes other legal costs for the disciplinary hearings as well as other charges formulated by the lawyers. Although the acting CEO of the SSC George Simataa claimed that he had no idea how much his company had spent on the Avid High Court Inquiry and the disciplinary cases, lawyers involved in the case admitted that the case was very costly. Legal Counsel Dirk Conradie who represented Otniel Podewitz in the Avid Inquiry noted the Avid High Court Inquiry was definitely an expensive exercise. “I charged my client N$80 000 a month because that is all that he could afford. I was informed that SSC spent more than a million in that case. I wish I was the SSC lawyer.” He added that the fees were high because the lawyers had to spend the entire days in court not doing any other work. Conradie added that defence lawyers were asking lower fees because they represented individuals and not institutions like the SSC. Another lawyer who was involved in the Avid Inquiry, Sisa Namandje said the Avid case was very costly because it was complex and was an urgent application. “Lawyers were charging between N$2 500 and N$10 000 per day just to appear in the High Court, depending on the client.” Namandje who represented former deputy minister Paulus Kapia added that because of the urgency of the case, lawyers worked after hours, charging extra fees for the work. “We had to consult clients, research documents, appear in the High Court and draft court papers.” The acting Chief Executive Officer of the Namibia Development Company (NDC), Wessels !Nanuseb could also not reveal how much his company spent on legal costs in their quest to recover their N$55 million that was invested in the ODC. !Nanuseb noted that the company enlisted the services of Engling, Stritter & Partners almost three months ago but has not received the bill yet because the job was unfinished. The lawyers first conducted some investigations, which led to the suspension of the CEO Abdool Sattar Aboobakar and head of Finance and Administration Addis Faul. NDC then enlisted the services of more lawyers to conduct the two disciplinary hearings. The hearings are ongoing. The NDC has appointed Lucius Murorua as chairperson of the disciplinary hearing, while advocate Gerson Hinda is the initiator. Windhoek-based lawyer Nate Ndauendapo is part of the prosecution team. Mark Kurtzner from Engling, Stritter & Partners could act as a witness. Kurtzner spent months investigating the matter. Ndauendapo who is also the chairperson of the Green hearing said legal tariffs for lawyers were prescribed by the Law Society. He noted that lawyers like himself who have more than 10 years experience do not charge less than N$8 000 per day, while lawyers who have been admitted for more than 15 years do not charge less than N$12 000 per day. “My rate is N$8 000 per day whether it is in the High Court or a disciplinary hearing.” Ndauendapo added that he suspects that the Avid Inquiry was an expensive case because of the amount of money involved, importance of the case as well as the public interest. Despite spending millions, the SSC or ODC have not recovered a cent of their money so far.