UNC senator Jayanti Lutchmedial said the issue of Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi’s wife’s law firm being hired by the Office of the Prime Minister was exactly why there was a need for greater oversight in the expenditure of public monies.
Lutchmedial addressed the matter in a phone interview with Newsday on Monday.
Newsday reported the law firm of Al-Rawi, Haynes-Soo Hon and Co was hired to file a formal response on behalf of the Cabinet to a pre-action protocol letter sent by the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha.
The Maha Sabha is challenging the Cabinet over the cut in the number of national scholarships and the implementation of a new bursary system.
Al-Rawi told Newsday his wife’s firm was forbidden to receive work from the Office of the Attorney General, but not from other arms of the State, including the Office of the Prime Minister.
Lutchmedial said when she worked for the State, in a ministry, all counsel to be hired were approved by the Attorney General.
“But beyond that, I think it is important in this case, there is an expression 'justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done' and that is a point that applies as well when it comes to propriety of hiring external persons and service providers by the State.”
She said it was a trend with Al-Rawi.
“He notoriously recused himself so many times from so many Cabinet meetings because of conflict of interest.”
She added that the Opposition raised questions about this in the latest round of amendments to the Procurement Act which it was seeking to have repealed.
“It was raised in the Parliament, ‘Why do you need to not have oversight in the hiring of legal services?’”
The Attorney General - the state’s lawyer - was saying he essentially saw nothing wrong with the Cabinet, of which he is a part, hiring his wife’s law firm, where he worked previously, Lutchmedial said.
"A responsible attorney general ought to be more cognisant of the public’s perception and the public’s confidence in laws, expenditure of funds and the propriety with which people are hired," she added.
She said whether he had any input into who was hired, or not hired, by the Office of the Prime Minister was something the Opposition had to look into some more.
“But this is something the Opposition certainly will not let go, because it really does highlight the need for why you need greater oversight in the expenditure of public monies, which is something we have been raising a lot in the public lately,” she said.