County Attorneys in the 47 devolved units have hailed the enactment of the Office of the County Attorney Act 2020, which they said would enhance the office’s service delivery.
They said the Act had elevated the Office of the County Attorney to the status of County Executive Committee Member and a fully-fledged county department, thus giving it more independence and the resources required to discharge quality and effective services.
Speaking in a Malindi hotel during the first County Attorney’s Retreat since the enactment of the law in July on Thursday, the Chairperson of the County Attorney’s Forum, Ms Bibi Fondo, said the office had been working under extreme difficulties since it was not recognized in law.
She thanked Senator Amos Wako for coming up with the idea of an office equivalent to that of the Attorney General in the counties and Senator Samson Cherargei for spearheading the enactment of the law in July this year.
The law was passed in July 2020 and assented to by President Uhuru Kenyatta later in the same month.
Ms Fondo, who is also the Kilifi County Attorney, urged county governors to fast-track the implementation of the act by transiting county attorneys into the offices to enable them to have resources to help them discharge their duties more effectively.
“According to section six of the act, the person who has been performing the functions of county legal officer, so long as they have a qualification of being an advocate for five years, should transit into the office without any hindrance,” she said.
Noting that county attorneys play a pivotal role in the implementation of the fourth schedule of the constitution in drafting laws for the county governments, she said it was important that all county governments recognize that office.
She said county government would no longer have to hire private legal officers to represent them in suits since the office of the county attorney would henceforth have adequate human and financial resources to fully represent the devolved administrations.
She said that apart from three or four counties, all other counties have legal officers who have been discharging the work of county attorneys and needed to be transitioned into the substantive office of the County Attorney.
“I can say that we have done about ten or twelve of the county attorneys who have already taken the oath of office. There are those who have been discharging the duties pursuant to their respective county laws, but nothing prevents them from doing their work,” she said.
“The new law stamps upon them the authority to continue doing the work that they are doing. It is just that their position has been elevated to an executive committee member and they now will be an independent office or department.
Ms Fondo said that the main challenges the county legal officers had been facing were on issues to do with county law enforcement and the drafting of contracts, which she said had attracted law suits against county governments.
“Sometimes contracts are not drafted by county attorneys. They have not gone through the legal department.to address issues that may come out that may affect or lead to lawsuits, and this has attracted many lawsuits against the devolved governments,” she said.
Earlier, the chairperson had led fellow county attorneys through the new act, especially schedule four which deals with the code of conduct of county attorneys.
Deputy Chairperson Caleb Nyamwange said he did not anticipate challenges in implementation of the new law by county governments since most of the clauses are self-executing.
By Emmanuel Masha