Q&A – 19 January 2015

Hourly billing by lawyer

My lawyer bills me per hour which I am agreeable to. However can the lawyer bill me for the time he spends in billing me. In short I have noticed that if the lawyer spent an hour a month sending or checking the bill, he adds that hour of his to my bill. Is that not unfair?
ER, Dar

This entirely depends on the engagement letter that you have with your lawyer. If the engagement letter allows him to do so, then he can bill you for the time he spends in preparing his bill.

Our experience is that most engagement letters do not provide for this. The time that is normally billable is the time that the lawyer spends working for you. We believe that if the engagement letter does not have a specific clause providing for such a billing, then he cannot bill you for the time he spends preparing his bill because that time is not being spent to work for you but rather it is time spent by the lawyer working for himself.

We recommend that you look at the engagement letter and discuss this openly with your lawyer. Most lawyers are quite reasonable and would want to avoid getting into unnecessary issues with clients.

Short skirts in offices

I accompanied my client who came from outside the country to a Ministry. She was wearing a short black skirt which was above the knee. The Minister’s secretary was looking at her in a very awkward manner and made a remark in Kiswahili that such skirts were not allowed in the Ministry as it was against our culture. She kept on starring at my client which made me feel very awkward. Is there such a rule? Why should she be staring at my client? When the Client met the Minister, one of the senior officials made a remark to my client that she was so tall and he wondered if she had managed to get a husband that tall who could reach up to her! My client felt quiet awkward. What should she do?
RP, Dar

To the best of our knowledge, there is a rule against civil servants wearing short skirts in workplaces. However we have not seen any rules against clients or foreigners wearing short skirts to Ministries. Infact you will note that a number of high dignitaries who visit our leaders in Tanzania wear stylish skirts and open dresses. Our leadership has never raised this and continues to entertain all kinds of people.

We are unable to reply on why the secretary was staring at your client; maybe she was looking at your client in a derogative manner, or perhaps she was admiring your client. The secretary is the only one who can answer this.

As to the comment on your Client’s height, we do not have exact details of how the comment was made but perhaps this was an ice breaking remark. Tanzanian men, as is the case with other men in other countries, feel quiet uncomfortable with taller women, especially ones wearing shorter skirts. Perhaps your client is also a little too sensitive.

All in all, if she wants to take this up, she can formally report this to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry who can take this up with the official.

Investors’ complaint bureau

We are large investors in the country and are facing challenges with a certain ministry dilly dallying with a decision that is costing us, in rental, millions of dollars a month. We find it hard to perform in the circumstances and seek advice on how to approach this. We are here at the invitation of the government and cannot understand why a decision such as this is taking so long. Decision making of the government is very slow in Tanzania as everything, including genuine projects, are looked at suspiciously. What should we do?
GJ, Dar

It is true that decisions have been taking some time. However there is an Investors’ Complaint Bureau that is available to entertain any such complaints that are slowing down projects. This bureau is headed by the Chief Secretary. Unfortunately we are informed that decisions in this bureau are also taking time and if you face this, we suggest you escalate this to the Prime Minister who is pro investment and will take this up with the Ministry.

No exemptions, no investors

We have been approached by the government to undertake a large project in Tanzania. It is a solicited bid and we are ready to go ahead with tendering if required. Problem we face is that every day we read in the papers reports by agencies on how much Tanzania is losing on exemptions. We have not read a single report on how exemptions have managed to attract investment into the country and benefitted Tanzania. Recently we saw the Minister responsible for such exemptions actually not wanting to grant them at all for fear that such exemptions will backfire on her in the future. How can Tanzania remain competitive in the international arena if there is so much fear of granting exemptions for genuine projects that have a wider benefit to the economy. How should we go about this?
YU, Dar

Unfortunately Tanzania granted exemptions to certain companies that misused them and the genuine companies, like yourselves (we hope), are suffering from this taboo. It is true that without granting of exemptions it is hard to attract investments in any country. Infact even the developed world continues to grant exemptions to companies to attract them to invest. Our research reveals that all the 52+ countries in Africa grant exemptions.

We suggest that apart from applying to the Ministry of Finance, you need to meet the top leadership for them to understand the project and its multiplier effect on the economy. Notwithstanding the adverse reports, the government is still granting exemptions where required, and correctly so. We have noticed that this exemption outcry has indeed, and sadly so, reached a stage where investors are not comfortable with bringing big money into the country.