By Mohabir Anil Nandlall, MP, Attorney-at-Law
Every person, who has ever served in the office of Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, must have felt a profound sense of flattery when they learnt that the current holder of the office was gifted three (3) retired Judges; one from the Caribbean Court Justice (CCJ), one from the Court of Appeal of Guyana and one from the High Court of Guyana; along with two (2) law professors, each possessing a doctorate in law, to assist him in the discharge of the functions of that office. I doubt that I can be contradicted in my assertion that this is a world record.
I was particularly touched because I held this office in my thirties serving a minority Government, which presented me with new, unique and unprecedented legal challenges. Conscious of the risk of being accused of blowing my own trumpet, from all objective indicators, I acquitted myself well, if not with distinction. I did it, “my way” and without a constellation of highly decorated help but only with the hard working staff at the Chambers. The only extra, authorized, cost incurred by the State at my behest, was a few thousand Guyana dollars per month, as subscriptions fees for professional law reports. For that, I was criminally charged!
It is common knowledge that under our constitutional structure, Ministers hold office at the pleasure and confidence of the President. In my view, the appointment of these highly decorated personnel by the President to assist the Attorney General in the discharge of his official duties, is a most diplomatic expression of no confidence in this Minister, as there can ever be. It is obvious, that the President feels constrained to act in any other manner in relation to the Chairman of his political party. Notwithstanding, any self-respecting professional placed in such precarious conundrum as this Minister, should do nothing less but tender his resignation in dignity.
I was accused of all manner of things by all manner of people, especially on social media, for requesting the State to continue to pay my subscriptions for the now infamous law reports. The sum of money which the State is alleged to have contribute to those subscriptions is just over two million Guyana dollars, in three years. Let us examine now the cost that this Attorney General will now impose, monthly, on the backs of taxpayers’ for the services of these five advisors, retained, obviously because of manifest incompetence.
Having regard to the calibre of the persons retained, I surmise that their remuneration package will include a salary of no less than seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars (net) per month, light, telephone, internet and a driver (at a minimum) to be paid for and salary for at least two support staff, each. My information is that they will be housed in a separate building, which is being rented for eight hundred thousand dollars, per month. One must add to this, electricity, telephone, internet and other miscellaneous cost associated with this premises.
I set out here under an estimated breakdown of these monthly costs, using conservative figures:
When one adds the AG’s salaries and benefits (1.5M + $500,000) we arrive at a grand total of $8,655,000 per month; (times 12) totals a staggering $103,860,000, annually.
The total subscriptions paid by the Government for my law reports in 3 years, according to their own figures, is just over two million dollars (2M). Why should Basil Williams not be charged? Is it because President Granger authorized these advisors? It cannot be. After all, President Ramotar authorized the payment for the subscriptions of my law reports.
I now await to hear from all those who spoke on my issue, as protectors of taxpayers’ monies. I expect them, in their condemnation, to ask of President Granger this fundamental question: “would it not be in the best interest of the nation and save taxpayers’ millions, by appointing a competent person to serve in the position of Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, instead?”