Kenya: CCK and Lawyers Fall Out Over a Multi-Million Case

Regulation & Policy
Law firms are expected to battle fiercely to represent the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) after it had a bitter falling out with its solicitors over how to settle the bill for a case involving a major media house and hundreds of millions of shillings. Documents filed at the High Court on March 14, 2009 show the city law firm is seeking Sh65 million for their services. The industry regulator's board could seek another legal representative when it meets soon, raising the spectre of incurring double charges over the matter that has dragged on for years. The media house and broadcaster has in the past accused the outgoing CCK lawyers of conflict of interest and blocking a settlement. A different legal opinion is likely if a new CCK legal representative is appointed. The case arose from the media house's huge claim in 2000 against the telecommunications industry regulator that was dismissed and a subsequent appeal that was thrown out. The media firm has, however, been pushing for settlement of the matter leading to the law company's' withdrawal and filing for taxation of costs at Milimani Commercial Court. Both parties have been involved in various litigations, including one in which CCK is seeking operation fees totalling Sh39 million with the broadcaster claiming to have, indeed, overpaid by Sh1.6 million. Several letters have been exchanged between officials of the two parties over the issue. Former director-general John Njoroge and Information PS Bitange Ndemo even met the media firm officials on April 4, 2008 over the very issue that is yet to be resolved. According to correspondence seen by the Sunday Nation, the officials allegedly decided to settle the matter out of court in a meeting also attended by CCK legal officer John Omo. In the same correspondence, the media owner spars with a partner of the firm that has just filed for taxation, claiming he has conflict of interest and had been hankering after the equipment confiscated by CCK over which the multimillion claim arose in the first place. "In fact, in the case we have agreed to settle out of court he is the lawyer acting for CCK," wrote the media firm before adding why they have issues with the lawyer. "He has been a stumbling block to settling them (cases)." "He has, if properly investigated, earned tens of millions of shillings from the government (CCK) for these cases that should not have been there in the first place." The law firm soon wrote to CCK threatening to pull out over what it claimed to be sustained pressure to compromise the case against the interests of the commission. It accuses CCK officials of bowing to political pressure and pointedly says one officer cautioned them that a new firm would be engaged unless certain settlement was reached. It chronicles violations allegedly committed by CCK officials against interests of the parastatal. While the media firm says it is motivated by the long delays to seek settlement, the lawyers say the only motivation for seeking an out of court settlement that could run into millions of shillings arose from the weakness of their appeal and low chances of success.