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PAC grills DPP officials over low case clearance

FILE PHOTO: Public Accounts Committee

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Public Accounts Committee-PAC has tasked a team of officials from the Office of Director Public Prosecution-ODPP to provide details on the steps taken to solve the slow progress of cases.

The officials from the ODPP led by the Deputy Director, Elem Ogwal were appearing before PAC chaired by the Budadiri West MP, Nathan Nandala Mafabi to respond to queries in the Auditor General’s report for the financial year 2017/2018.

The low case clearance rate has been a recurrent issue in the previous Auditor General’s report and the current report before PAC. “During the year 2017/2018 a number of newly recorded cases were 111,065 resulting in a total number of cases of 573,577 of which 46,016 were concluded leaving outstanding backlog of 527,561,” reads part of the audit report. Out of the 46,061 concluded cases, 17,208 were conviction, 1276 acquittals, 444 withdrawn, 10,294 dismissed while 16,794 case files were closed.

The different category of cases handled by the DPP include murder, aggravated robbery, treason, rape, manslaughter, theft, assault, forgery and others. “This means that during the year under review, the directorate performed inadequately with a case disposal rate of 8% compared to previous financial years when performance stood at 25% in 2015/2016 and 11% in 2016/2017. Delayed disposal of cases affects timely delivery of justice to the affected persons,” the Auditor General, John Muwanga noted.

In his response to PAC, Vincent Wagona, the Senior Assistant DPP acknowledged that it was true that they have been registering more cases than they have been able to dispose of in court. He however, said the directorate has no complete control over case disposal since it involves other players, adding that they have initiated various measures with other members under the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) to have more high court sessions.

Wagona cited other strategic interventions like plea bargain and special court sessions among others that are being implemented to rescue the situation.

He blamed the recurrent low case clearance on the challenge of understaffing and the other processes that the cases go through, which they are beyond their control. There 822 vacant posts in the ODPP 822 while 1337, 515 are filled.  The Tororo South MP, Fred Angura tasked Wagona to come out clearly on the measures taken the ODPP to clear cases independent of what other sector players are contributing.

The PAC Chairperson, Nathan Nandala Mafabi expressed concern with the high growth rate of Uganda’s population, saying the case may become unmanageable if the Director of Public Prosecutions doesn’t devise better ways of clearing the cases.

Wagona insisted that the delayed clearance of the cases doesn’t entirely lie with the DPP but investigations under the Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department (CIID) as well as Court.

Nandala directed that the ODPP to present to committee a schedule indicating the stages where the different outstanding cases are.

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