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Court blocks interdiction of five UBOS officials

UBOS officials lawyer Mwesigwa Rukutana. URN photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The High Court in Kampala has issued an interim injunction blocking the decision to interdict five officials of the Uganda Bureau of Statics-UBOS over allegations of corruption.

The five are Dr Chris Ndatira Mukiza, the Executive Director, Dr Albert Byamugisha, the Chairperson Board of Directors, Dr Robert Wamala, Board member, Florence Abeja, the acting manager of Finance and Administration, and David Ochieng, the head of Internal Audit.

On Wednesday, court presided over by Justice Phillip Odoki made the order to stay the implementation of the October 28th 2021, decision by the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Matia Kasaija, to interdict the officials on allegations of victimization, conflict of interest and corruption.

Kasaija’s letter which URN has seen doesn’t give the details of the allegations against the officials. However, it indicates that on October 19th 2021, Kasaija was directed by the Inspector General of Government-IGG to interdict/suspend the aforementioned officials from their duties to pave way for investigations.

“The purpose of this letter therefore, is to interdict you with immediate effect from the duties of your office as directed and per the relevant provisions of the Public Service Standing Orders 2010”, reads Kasaija’s letter in part.

The evidence before the court indicates that during their interdiction, Minister Kasaija barred the five UBOS officials from accessing their respective offices unless with his permission, and he further directed that they should receive half-pay of their respective salaries.

According to the letter, Kasaija also ordered the officials not to leave the country without his permission and to hand over all the UBOS equipment in their possession, on top of being stopped from handling any work or assignment related to UBOS.

However, the officials filed two separate cases before the High Court Civil Division on November 3rd 2021, which were later consolidated and fixed for hearing before Justice Odoki.

Through their lawyers led by Mwesigwa Rukutana, they asked the court to quash Kasaija’s directive on grounds that it was illegal, irrational and marred with procedural impropriety.

According to Rukutana, the Minister exercised the powers not vested in him by law and that the right procedure to interdict the officials was never followed.

He further told the court that the procedure provided for under the Inspectorate of Government Act is to inform the person you want to interdict, give them a right to be heard first on the allegations before coming to the interdiction. But this Rukutana says was not the case.

Rukutana added that his clients were shocked to hear that they are being suspended for corruption, conflict of interest when there are no other particulars to show who exactly was victimized or conflicted.

They asked the court to issue an interim order pending the determination of the main case challenging the legality of Kasaija’s decision.

Justice Odoki agreed with the lawyers of UBOS that they will suffer irreparable damages if an interim order is not granted. He restrained the government (Attorney General) and UBOS from implementing all the contents in Kasaija’s decision communicated in his letter.

The Judge has further issued an order restraining the government and UBOS from making any press statements regarding the case against the officials who petitioned the court for redress.

To support his decision, Odoki has noted that his order shall be in place until the determination of the main case seeking to declare Kasaija’s decision as illegal.

He has adjourned the case to November 26, 2021, to enable State Attorney Hillary Nathan Ebila who is representing the respondents to file affidavits in reply to the main case.

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URN

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