MUTARE – Parliament is probing a law firm over possible illegal conduct after Mutare City Council (MCC) officials claimed it solicited for a debt collection contract — a violation of the Legal Practitioners’ Act.
The august House’s Public Accounts Committee has requested a detailed account of how the firm — Mangwana and Associates (M&A) – was engaged as MCC’s debt collectors.
This was after acting town clerk Donaldson Nyatoti claimed M&A were one of two law firms that wrote to the council offering their services.
“Can you please give us a written submission on how you settled for Mangwana and Associates as your debt collectors,” the committee’s acting chairperson, Wesley Sansole, asked Nyatoti.
This was after MDC MP Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga queried the hiring process.
Nyatoti had made the revelations while giving oral evidence on the city’s compliance with the 2012 audit recommendations to the committee.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga said it was illegal for legal practitioners to solicit or respond to advertisements or tenders.
“If they wrote to you as you say, then what they did is illegal as it violates the Legal Practitioners’ Act,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga charged at the acting council boss, forcing him to retract his statement, but not enough to waive the committee’s interest in the issue.
“I’ll need to verify how exactly we engaged them because I may have given the wrong information,” Nyatoti said after he was taken to task over the matter.
The Legal Practitioners’ Act outlaws soliciting in subsection 5 (k) which prohibits “tendering or offering in response to advertisement, circulars or similar invitations, either directly or indirectly, for the performance of any work or business proper to the calling of a legal practitioner, notary public or conveyancer or commonly associated therewith.”
The local authority also drew fire for overshooting the 30 percent cap for its wage bill against annual budget.
Mabvuku-Tafara MDC legislator James Maridadi slapped down Nyatoti for trying to justify the anomaly.
The acting town clerk justified the high labour costs claiming council employees were doing work that would otherwise have been done by earthmoving equipment.
“If you are using labour, it’s not machinery,” Maridadi retorted, before accusing the local authority of fraudulently trying to hide staff costs.
“You fraudulently misrepresented to the minister that you are close to meeting the 30/70 ratio,” the Mabvuku-Tafara MP said of the approved current budget of 37/63 percent.
“It’s a deliberate misclassification of issues,” charged Maridadi.