THE row over benefits for former civil servants who separated from Government in 1997 has deepened with former Government workers under Okware and Associates accusing some senior Ministry of Justice officials of trying to deny Lusaka lawyer Nelly Mutti of Lukona Chambers her legal fees when she was the one who won the case.
The former civil servants under Okware have also said Malipenga and Company which is representing some of their colleagues should not receive any legal fees because it was never part of the case.
Simatama Maliwa, who first approached Okware and Associates over over the 8 percent said yesterday he does not understand the reason why people want to deny Ms Mutti her 12 percent legal fees when the underpayment was arising from the benefits she won for the former civil servants who volunteered to leave Government under the separation scheme.
According to the Ministry of Justice permanent secretary Joseph Akafumba’s letter dated June 24, 2014, he invited Messrs Okware and Associates to a meeting on July 1, 2014 to discuss the 8 percent underpayment.
Mr Akafumba again wrote on August 11, 2014 confirming that the Public Service Management Division was verifying the matter for the former civil servants.
“We wonder why the Ministry of Justice is entertaining Messrs Malipenga and Company when there is no record showing that Messrs Malipenga and Company either litigated or partnered with Messrs Okware and Associates in this matter,” Mr Maliwa said.
He asked Messr Malipenga and Company to withdraw from the matter and allow the retirees to be paid.
Mr Maliwa said the impasse among the lawyers had delayed the payment of benefits to the retirees.
“Word of caution to the owners of the money is that they will have to suffer several deductions in terms of legal fees to lawyers, more especially, if they allow even those who were not part of the case,” he said.
Last week, Government released over K7 million to the Ministry of Justice to cater for 8 percent payment to over 3,000 former civil servants who were underpaid when their terminal benefits were being paid but the money has not yet reached the beneficiaries.
This is because differences have arisen over who should handle the payments and which lawyer was titled to legal fees as the former civil servants who initially formed the Voluntary Separatee Association of Zambia (VSAZ) have formed several groups and engaged different lawyers.
Lukona Chambers were the initial advocates who prosecuted the matter from 2002 on behalf of the more than 3,000 VSAZ members and won the case in 2006.
Okware and Associates were engaged by some VSAZ members who were dissatisfied with Lukona’s handling of their services.
Malipenga and Company was engaged much later after some VSAZ executive members reported Lukona Chambers to the police over alleged illegal deductions of retirees’ benefits.