The former Rector of the University for Professional Studies (UPSA), Professor Joshua Alabi has denied claims that he paid ¢263,670 to Lithur Brew and Company for no work done during his tenure.
“It is also not true that Tony Lithur didn’t represent the school in any legal issue. No, there were a lot of legal issues that we referred to Tony Lithur where he went to court on our behalf,” he said.
Speaking on Joy FM’s Midday News on Friday, he indicated that the news came to him as a surprise and Tony Lithur after being contacted by JoyNews on the said accusations.
According to him, the governing Council of UPSA decided to use the services of Lithur Brew and Company and it was not his personal choice.
“In fact, I got to know from Joy FM this afternoon [Friday]. It has never come to my attention. I was shocked and surprised that such a report could come out. The purpose of the audit is to perfect systems, the idea is not to go and catch thieves.
“When you go with the mindset to go and catch thieves you may do shoddy work as they have just done. From what you people [Joy FM] sent to me, it is stated that we just picked a Lawyer. It went through the Governing Council of UPSA,” he said.
He explained that the school had a previous legal external advisor before he took over and when his term expired, a new legal advisor was picked through the Council.
“So it is not like Joshua Alabi just picked somebody and placed him there,” he added.
The former Rector indicated that the assertion of no work done is false and Tony Lithur has in his possession the necessary documents to prove otherwise.
“Tony Lithur did work for the school. When you people sent this to me, I called him and he was shocked. He has also not heard anything like that so he is also going to go through these files to challenge whatever they said. He did work.
“At a point that may be in your house, you don’t have the files to defend it, but thankfully I called Tony Lithur and he has all the files. He worked for the school and the auditors are wrong, they have lied,” he explained.
His concerns rise from a directive by the Auditor-General to him; Professor Joshua Alabi to refund with interest an amount of almost ¢300,000 paid as legal fees to private legal firm Lithur Brew and Company.
This directive stems from an audited report of Public Boards, corporations and other statutory institutions that revealed that the Management of UPSA, signed a retainer agreement dated March 16, 2014, and paid an amount of ¢263,670 to law firm Lithur Brew and Company as a retainer fee but there is no evidence of the provision of any legal services to the University.
But dismissing these claims, the former Rector stated that Tony Lithur was contacted several times to be of legal service to the school aside from being in court and that he says forms part of the responsibilities of a retainer.
“Now, when we talk of retainers, sometimes they need education. You can ask any legal firm anywhere, retainer means you can be called anytime to advise the organisation so it is not only a matter of going to court to talk on behalf of the organisation but at any point in time the organisation needs legal advice, you are called upon to come to advise the organisation and that is what we call retainer. A retainer has its fee during the period.”
He indicated that he has not officially been served with a notice requesting a refund and described the directives of the Auditor General as unfair on his part for not being consulted for matters to be clarified before the supposed report was published.
“They didn’t reach out to me and I called Tony Lithur and he said they have not reached out to him and they just published.
“Refund what? When we paid the thing to Tony Lithur, and he worked for it, maybe when we left, people might have adduced evidence but then Tony Lithur has all his documents there. He worked and there were numerous occasions where we invited Tony Lithur to come to the school to give us legal advice, numerous occasions. If you ask any legal firm, there is an amount you pay for a retainer. So it is not a matter of only going to court as a legal adviser but there are a lot of things you do. So you can’t say for no work done. How can you talk like that? He didn’t consult me, he didn’t consult Tony Lithur.
“I don’t know who he consulted in the school with my absence and the person gave that lie and they published it.
The report also noted that Lithur Brew and Company was appointed through sole-sourcing without recourse to the provisions of the Public Procurement (Amendment) Act, 2016 (Act 914).
Reacting to that information, Prof Joshua Alabi admitted that the company was appointed through sole-sourcing but indicated the actions of the Council is not illegal.
He also indicated that the school since his time in office had engaged in sole-sourcing “and I believe they are still doing them,” he said.
“It is not legally wrong to pick a Lawyer through sole sourcing. The report says sole sourcing, and the sole sourcing is true. Through the governing Council of the University, we did the sole sourcing for a Lawyer and sole sourcing is legally not wrong and the auditors have made a mistake and we have to correct them. We have to use the media again to correct them through our own internal and external research,” he explained.
He disclosed to JoyNews that prior to his end of tenure in office, he reached out to the auditing firm, however, all attempts to have him audited were unsuccessful.
According to him, the auditing firm kept providing him with “funny excuses” but has now resurfaced four years later and accused him of illegal acts.
“You see when I was in UPSA before I left, I wrote to the auditors to come and audit me before I leave. This idea of auditing people when they have left and people come into positions and they are not able to whether intentional or unintentional to defend what the previous people did and you put it out there, for me, I disagree. So when I was leaving, on numerous occasions I wrote to them that I will be leaving, I want them to come and audit my books before I leave.
“They never came. Funny, funny excuses then four years later, you will hear that you employed somebody for no work done,” he stated.
He, therefore, argued that there should be some sort of compensation to the affected party when issues regarding hard work and reputation are brought to ridicule before the general public.
“… and I think when people work like that and they tarnish peoples images, there must be something against them too. There must be some compensation for those they have destroyed. It is equally very important,” he concluded.