Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 14th 2015 Contents A5
Tuesday, April 14, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Opposition Leader Dr
Keith Rowley yesterday
called for a forensic probe
into the Office of the Attor-
ney General in the wake of
the legal fees payment mix-
up.He also said Attorney Gen-
eral Garvin Nicholas must
apologise to the country and
the Parliament for "mislead-
ing" and attempting to
"hoodwink" everyone with
his "convoluted and disingen-
uous" explanation of the inac-
curacies over the fees pre-
sented to the Parliament last
Rowley made the call at a
press briefing at the Opposi-
tion's office, Port-of-Spain,
yesterday, as he said the AG's
office had once again become
a matter of "great concern"
and that Nicholas should face
He said the House could
sanction Nicholas in various
ways, including that of a rep-
rimand or a suspension.
"Mistakes can be made in
Parliament but what we had
here is the AG outside of the
Parliament taking the position
that what he laid in the Par-
liament had errors. He now
has to come back to the Par-
liament and say what the true
story is," Rowley said.
The budgetary allocation to
the AG's office, Rowley said,
was unique in the sense that
monies made to an AG for
hiring private services includ-
ed attorney, investigators and
accountants, and the only per-
son who had the responsibility
for selecting people to be hired
and determining fees was an
The Opposition leader
added that this was not the
duty of a permanent secretary
in the office of the AG.
He accused the People's
Partnership (PP) Government
of substantially raising the
allocation for selected people
to be hired.
"We were very concerned
the Parliament to point out
that something was not right
and there was just the lav-
ishing of monies to the attor-
ney general," Rowley said.
He said despite questions
being filed in the Parliament
regarding who was being hired
and for how much, former
AG Anand Ramlogan never
answered. Rowley said for the
past four years the allocation
to the AG's office for private
services "jumped to $100 mil-
lion a year," hence the reason
why Nicholas was now forced
to publicly explain.
Nicholas had ordered a
probe of the initial legal fee
budget of $343 million he gave
to Parliament last month after
several attorneys complained
that fees attributed to them
were inaccurate and in some
cases represented double pay-
Permanent secretary Mar-
lene Juman was tasked with
verifying the figures supplied
by the accounts department.
In a press release last Friday,
Nicholas said the review iden-
tified some $30.5 million in
duplicate fees to lawyers. He
said he was assured that no
overpayments were made to
the local attorneys.
However, he also said that
during the review they realised
some $80 million in foreign
payments were left out of the
initial report he gave to Par-
liament, which meant that the
legal fees payment was in fact
$408 million and not $343
Nicholas said the errors
arose as a result of using two
recording systems for attor-
neys' fees, an official "fees
register" and an "excel
spreadsheet" which is meant
to be updated on a regular
The responsibility for the erroneous state-
ment of legal fees laid in Parliament last
month lies with the Finance Department of
the Office of the Attorney General and per-
manent secretary Marlene Juman, Attorney
General Garvin Nicholas says.
Nicholas made the comment during a tele-
phone interview with the T&T Guardian yes-
terday as Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley
made a call for a forensic audit of the AG's
Office, following the release last week which
confirmed there was an error in the initial $343
million budget given to Parliament last month.
"The reality is that it was prepared by the
Finance Department and the permanent sec-
retary, but it was discovered that it was essen-
tially a human error," Nicholas, who is in Qatar,
In March, the AG's office presented a doc-
ument which gave a detailed breakdown of
legal fees during the tenure of former attorney
general Anand Ramlogan between 2010 and
The fees, which were reported as totalling
over $343 million, caused controversy after
attorneys named claimed that some of the fig-
ures were inaccurate and in some cases rep-
resented double payments.
Former AGs Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj and
John Jeremie also called for a forensic audit to
be conducted by the Police Service.
Nicholas ordered a probe into the matter
by Juman and the report revealed that some
entries were duplicated and others were incor-
rect to a tune of $30.5 million in duplicated
However, the probe also found that some
$80 million in foreign payments for legal fees
were also omitted so the actual budget jumped
from $343 million to $408 million.
Asked if he intended to take further action,
in wake of the calls by Maharaj, Jeremie and
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, who said
yesterday a forensic audit of the ministry was
necessary, Nicholas said no.
"Based on what was reported and what was
further double checked, I don't think it is nec-
essary to take any further action. I understand
that it was a human error based on the method
used to input the figures," he said.
Nicholas said the next step would be to pro-
vide a new report to the Parliament. He said
the process for compiling a new report would
begin upon his return to T&T next week.
He disregarded the concerns raised by the
two former AGs, stating that they were both
engaged in political activities.
"What we have sought to do is to be open
and transparent in this process.
I find it curious that Jeremie, a man who
presided over this office with much less trans-
parency, is asking for clarification," he added.
It was human error, says AG
Rowley: Probe fees mix-up
Yesterday, Rowley, who accused Nicholas of
trying to cloud the issue by presenting a
confusing explanation with some "fancy
footwork," said: "This is a matter where the
Government is trying to once again mislead the
country through the mouths of senior State
officers, in this case the mouth of the attorney
general, where a report is now made public
outside of the Parliament in answer to a question
put inside the Parliament and the report itself
raises more questions than answers.
"We reject this arrangement and we are asking
the Attorney General to return to the Parliament
at the next sitting, apologise to the Parliament
for misleading the Parliament and tell us the
truth and not try to fool us by a breakdown that
cannot stand scrutiny."
He also dismissed the explanation given by
Nicholas, saying the release sent by the AG was
"disingenuous" because it refered to the
information provided as being "unprecedented"
and sent under the guise of being "transparent."
"The 'transparent' press release refers
conveniently to matters that are cherry picked
for maximum political mileage. It omits the spend
on the fiasco of the Proman arbitration which the
State lost and in so doing lost control of one of
the most valuable energy assets of the country.
"It seeks to justify the spend of close to a half
a billion of our dollars on what it describes to be
16 investigations. Not one of these investigations
has led to a criminal prosecution," Rowley said.
He said what was also "disingenuous" was
that the public was told that the actual amount
paid to some local attorneys were overstated
because of a problem with an excel spreadsheet
and fee register.
"Yet not once does the report explain exactly
whose fees are mentioned in this 'transparent'
report. Whether the information is kept on a
spreadsheet or in a manila folder the AG is just
playing smart by throwing out foolish
statements," Rowley said.
He said Nicholas had also disaggregated the
figures in the "most disingenuous" way so as to
create doubt and satisfaction in the public's mind
that there was nothing to worry about as the
$408 million could be explained.
"He is now putting numbers in the public
domain which have not been made available to
the Parliament. I want to see what he is going to
tell the Parliament now that he has admitted
that his Government misled the Parliament on
this very serious matter of allocation and
reporting for public monies spent by the AG's
office," Rowley said.
'MORE QUESTION THAN ANSWERS'
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley addresses members of
the media durng a press conference yesterday at his office,
Charles Street, Port-of-Spain. PHOTO: JEFF MAYERS
Links Archive April 13th 2015 April 15th 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page