President defends performance of Attorney General
President David Granger on Friday sought to defend his Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams for losing several cases, costing the Government millions of dollars.
Since its assumption to office in May 2015, the Government represented by the AG has lost several cases at the level of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and in the local courts to large companies, private citizens, and Opposition members.
In its most recent ruling against the state—a $446M judgment in favour of Dipcon Engineering—the CCJ criticized the AG for failing to appeal the Supreme Court’s judgment within the prescribed period, noting that it was “unacceptable”.
The time taken to deal with matters of the State was an issue raised by Deputy Solicitor General, Prithima Kissoon, whose service was terminated by the Public Service Commission.
During a press conference on Friday, President Granger was asked to comment on the performance of the Attorney General and he said: “I wouldn’t blame the Minister of Legal Affairs.”
The President, however, sought to place blame elsewhere.
“I think that within that Ministry, there were some persons who were not doing necessarily the best for the government of Guyana,” Mr Granger said.
He implied that the cases lost were the ones which his Government inherited.
“I do not feel that in the past we had the best representation on some of the cases which we inherited were lost before we started because some of the representation was inadequate and that is a great pity.”
According to Mr Granger, the Attorney General made several internal changes in his Ministry after taking up office “in order to get the best quality representation.”
“He is a very experienced lawyer and as long as you go to the courts, you have to expect that the outcomes may not be in your favour but you can’t win everything, and I think he has worked hard,” Mr Granger told the media.
In the 2017 Budget, it was reported that $100 million was included in the Ministry’s Budget for the retention of six attorneys by the government to prosecute a number of high profile cases.
In the 2018 Budget, a total of $867M was approved for the current expenditure of the Ministry of Legal Affairs while $200M was approved for capital expenditure of which a sum was approved for payment of special prosecutors.