Attorney-General Sacky Shangala has been at the centre of a storm regarding the commissioning of foreign-based lawyers. This week New Era senior journalist, Edgar Brandt, sat down with Shangala for him to explain how his office operates.
NE: What is the annual budget of the Office of the Attorney-General and is this sufficient for the effective and efficient operations of the office?
SS: “Vote 35 has five main divisions under which the total appropriation in 2017/2018 is N$240,734,000.
“Main Division 01 is the Office of the Attorney-General, the ministerial component proper, with three persons on the establishment, including the Attorney-General. The functions of the Attorney-General and the existence of the portfolio of Attorney-General are constitutional matters. The Attorney-General though, along with the Prosecutor-General and the Auditor-General, remain as the only constitutional offices without legislation to govern their functions. We will therefore commence the process of drafting our legislation in the fullness of time.
“Main Division 02 is the Administration and Support Service component. Ideally, this position would be headed by a
Permanent Secretary, however, for now, Vote 35 and Vote 16 share one accounting officer, Issaskar Ndjoze.
“Main Division 03 is the Provision of Legal Services to the President and Government Offices/Ministries/Agencies (O/M/A’s). This component sits closer to the Attorney-General than the other components, as staff in this Directorate support the Attorney-General in the performance of the constitutional functions and mandates therein prescribed. The establishment is occupied by 32 staff members as not all 41 posts were funded.
“This notwithstanding, we await the approval and funding of the new structure which will permit the Attorney-General to be in a position to post lawyers to the O/M/A’s as secondary legal advisers while the Attorney-General remains the principal legal adviser to the President and Government.
“These lawyers would greatly assist the burden of fresh files and matters from O/M/A’s as we have seen with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism where we have placed a lawyer, as well as the Ministry of Health and Social Services where we have placed two lawyers on their establishment.
“We are eager to decentralize and place lawyers and support staff at the High Court Oshakati Division, however, once we get the posts funded, we would be back for another request for accommodation for these staff members.
“Main Division 04 is the Civil Litigation Directorate where we handle all litigation matters. Only 22 of the 44 positions are filled mainly because the establishment was not fully funded.
“We have also been occasioned by an increase in civil litigation matters against the State or O/M/A’s, however, we have been able to keep consistency in ensuring that justice is done.
“Main Division 05 is the Prosecutor-General component under the theme Public Prosecution. Forty per cent of Vote 35 is allocated to prosecutorial functions.”
NE: How much money has the Office of the Attorney-General committed for local legal consultants and how much has been committed for foreign consultants during the last financial year?
SS: “The budgeting is never done on the basis of local or foreign lawyers. We consider the frequency of cases and what may likely eventuate. For instance, closer to election years, we make provision for litigation. Emergencies and unplanned events obviously occur and we only relay our needs to the Ministry of Finance for budgetary support.”
NE: What measures or policies has the Office of the Attorney-General employed to maximise the success rate of court cases?
SS: “Some people measure justice being served by the number of cases we win or lose. Whilst we do not hoist our flag every time we win matters, particularly in the Supreme Court, we are confident that the quality of the arguments we present to the Court not only enrich our jurisprudence, but we trust that they contribute to the education of our colleagues who are in the profession, particularly when they deal with specific areas of public law. In essence, as the Attorney-General has indicated, success is obtained when justice is served, and served timeously. Winning and losing may evince the delivery of justice.”
NE: How many pieces of outdated legislation has the Office of the Attorney-General amended or updated in recent years and how many of these outdated laws still need to be tackled?
SS: “Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC), housed under the Ministry of Justice, is mandated to review, reform and develop the law through the consolidation and/or codification of branches of Namibian law; the enactment of laws that promote Human Rights; the harmonization of customary law and common law with statutory law and the Namibian Constitution; make the law accessible; and conduct public and stakeholders consultations on law reform projects.”
NE: Does the Office of the Attorney-General represent ministers in their personal capacity or only in the line of duty in their capacity as ministers?
SS: “The Office of the Attorney-General will only represent the Minister in his or her capacity as Minister. For personal matters, that is beyond the ambit of the constitutional function.”
NE: Do staff members of the Office of the Attorney-General have local email addresses (please explain)?
SS: “Any member of the Office of the Attorney-General staff complement can be contacted on their @ag.gov.na email address. For general queries the firstname.lastname@example.org email address can be used, as well as our webpage and Facebook page. In line with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology’s Communication Strategy we aim to be very easy to contact, so creating transparency and upholding the rule of law.”
NE: How is the Office of the Attorney-General constituted and what role does the office play?
SS: “The Attorney-General is appointed by the President in accordance with Article 32(3)(1)(cc) of the Namibian Constitution, as set out under Article 86 of the Namibian Constitution. His powers and functions are set out in the subsequent Article, Article 87 of the Namibian Constitution.
“The powers and functions of the Attorney-General are to exercise final responsibility for the Office of the Prosecutor-General; to be the principal legal adviser to the President and Government; to take all action necessary for the protection and upholding of the Constitution; and to perform all such functions and duties as may be assigned to the Attorney-General by an Act of Parliament.”