AG: I never refused to pay Auditor General’s legal fees

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC. –

Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, is dismissing reports he refused to pay for the legal fees of an attorney retained by the auditor general over the provision of the audit report.

Auditor General Jaiwantie Ramdass filed a lawsuit on Tuesday amid a constitutional impasse over her report of the public accounts of TT for the financial year 2023.

The claim asks the court for an urgent hearing as Ramdass seeks several declarations, including her rights to protection of the law and not to be deprived of such procedural provisions as necessary.

She claimed she is entitled to retain and instruct counsel of her choice to advise and/or represent the Office of the Auditor General in any matter where there is a dispute with the government and that the AG is required to bear the reasonable costs for her lawyers.

Speaking at a media conference at his office on Wednesday, Armour said he promised to pay Ramdass’ legal fees but only for a particular issue.

He explained she wrote to him on April 17, asking whether the Auditor General is required to consider the amended budget statements in light of the provisions of sections 24 and 25 of the Exchequer and Audit Act.

Quoting from a letter he sent in response, Armour said he told her he was already advising the Minister of Finance on the matter after she sent a pre-action protocol letter.

Armour said he wrote, “I recommend that with all appropriate urgency, you should retain independent counsel to give you such advice. I give the undertaking that as Attorney General, I am prepared to pay reasonable fees incurred by you as auditor general for the retention and obtaining of that independent advice.”

He said Ramdass was aware the legal fees referred only to the advice on whether she was required to consider the amended budget statements.

He said this was reiterated to Ramdass in response to a letter sent by her attorney Anand Ramlogan.

Armour said Ramdass’ attorney was told in the letter, “It is clear that the recommendation and undertaking of the Attorney General was specific and related and confined solely to the advice sought by the auditor general in her letter to him on the April 17 and not in respect of any other advice or matter.”

He said reports that he refused to pay the legal fees are “erroneous, or worse, deliberately intended to mislead.”

Armour said he had not yet received any indication of the cost for Ramdass’ legal fees and added he had no intention of capping the amount as that would be premature.

“There is a process, for instance, at the high court, which is normally attended to by registrars of the high court. You look at the work that is done, you look at the time output and you assess what is reasonable against the work done, time output, and the complexity of the matter.”