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Sol’s Legal Services ‘dysfunctional’

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No meeting has ever been held by any of the acting municipal managers with the two legal advisers to determine their various responsibilities.

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THE SOL Plaatje Municipality’s Legal Services has been described as essentially dysfunctional in a disturbing report showing that most legal matters are referred to a local firm of attorneys.

The report was drawn up following a request by the IDP, budget and performance management committee, on disputes pending and all legal costs, including outsourced cases.

In the report, it is stated that the municipality’s Legal Services is “essentially dysfunctional” with staff scattered between the Corporate Services Section and the other housed at the Planning Department.

According to the report, both legal advisers report directly and independently to the municipal manager. Since June 2018, no meeting has ever been held by any of the acting municipal managers with the two legal advisers to determine their various responsibilities.

It is believed that the Legal Services office has no up to date records of pending and finalised matters for any of the past financial years because the entire Legal Services office is outsourced to private attorneys, with one local, well-known firm in particular being mentioned.

According to insiders, almost 90% of the municipality’s legal budget is spent on labour relations matters.

Labour matters at the Bargaining Council that are supposed to be done by internal labour relations officials are referred to the particular legal firm based in Kimberley.

It is also believed that the firm sources a certain advocate from Johannesburg to represent the municipality against union employees at the Bargaining Council at a huge cost to the municipality.

This means that huge costs are incurred outsourcing labour relations matters, which, in essence, renders labour employees at the municipality useless and redundant.

Legal costs for the 2017/2018 financial year, shows that a total of R5.7 million was paid to one local legal firm by the municipality.

Another firm received R210 006 for the financial year 2017/2018, while R1.26 million was shared among 15 other local firms.

In the 2018/2019 financial year, the one firm was again paid R5.074 million, while the other favoured local firm received R275 044 and a further R2.88 million was shared among 28 other firms.