COUNCILLORS gave the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality's legal department a tongue-lashing, saying its lawyers were nothing more than a bunch of clerks who referred cases to private law firms.
The councillors, who are part of the municipal public accounts committee (MPAC), on Tuesday said the team of 15 qualified lawyers were outsourcing legal work instead of fighting cases themselves, costing the city millions of rand every year.
The debate about the municipality's legal department follows the Kabuso forensic report last year which revealed the municipality spent about R130-million on hiring private law firms over a period of four years, despite employing eight attorneys and six assistants at the time.
The councillors demanded a report from the chief operating officer, Israel Tsatsire, benchmarking the productivity of the legal team.
DA councillor Retief Odendaal said: "We are sitting with 15 highly paid staff in our legal services team. [Tsatsire] must give us a reason why we should not reduce the number in that department.
"What we are sitting with is essentially 15 highly paid clerks referring matters to private practices. We want to know what the staff are busy with and how many are outsourced?" Odendaal said.
"If this is going to continue this way then we might as well keep four clerks at the most and outsource to private firms."
ANC councillor Marion Harning said the city was not getting its money's worth from the private law firms.
Holding up a lawyer's letter from a firm of attorneys, she said: "Look at this report... It's a badly written report; very shoddy work.
"We must go back to [the firm] and demand that they give us a more acceptable report. We are not getting our money's worth with the private guys and the same with our own guys ... ," she said.
Councillors were adamant that the municipality's legal team was unproductive.
Councillor Mongameli Bobani (UDM) said outsourcing cost the municipality millions of rand which would be better spent on service delivery.
"The money is not going to service delivery, where it should go," Bobani said.
He said the cases wherein the municipality used its own team were always lost because the city's lawyers could not defend a strong case.
"Look at our team in the Metro Security case. Our legal team cannot defend a strong case.
"Last week, our team could not defend strongly at the PE Labour Court [in the pay parity case]," Bobani said.
The Kabuso report, in its annexures, revealed there had been an absence of a formal panel of legal service providers and this had led to the monopolising of municipal legal work by certain law firms in the Bay.