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Friday, Dec 09, 2022

Over $8M spent on govt’s COI defence

Over $8M spent on govt’s COI defence

The toll on taxpayers for the Commission of Inquiry (COI) has been assessed to be more than eight million dollars so far.
This is inclusive of public relations, security and legal defence costs to the government.

The COI which started in January 2021 was initially mandated for six months, but was given two further extensions before hearings finally came to an end in November last year.

A report from the COI was submitted to the governor and released to the public at the end of April this year.

Legislators were told in the House of Assembly (HOA) yesterday that the great majority of that sum expended by taxpayers covered legal expenses provided by the Withers LLP law firm.

Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley, who said the cost to taxpayers has not yet been fully assessed, noted that initial costs for the first six months to taxpayers was approximately $2,689,742.82.

He said legal fees to the Withers law firm were initially pegged at $2,437,751.50 but the firm was later paid a further sum of $4,689,531.52 in legal fees for the latter three-month extended period of the COI.

There was also a payment of $251,991.25 made to cover COI costs during the first six months, the Premier said.

Premier Wheatley said costs for the last three-month period amounted to $5,367,740.98. Of that amount, security costs were reportedly $2,128.92 while public relations costs were $676,080.54.

However, none of that amount took into consideration legal defense funds for HOA members which was provided by Silk Legal, a locally-based law firm that has reportedly not been paid as yet.

The Premier said more bills arising from the COI are expected and stated that he would be in a better position to give an update at a later sitting of the HOA.

Former Premier Andrew Fahie had initially stated that legal fees would be capped at $5 million but a post-Cabinet briefing released earlier this year noted that government injected a further $1.2 million into its legal defence.

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