By John Odyek and Moses Walubiri
Government has rejected the sh12.9b costs awarded to a city lawyer who blocked Parliament from forcing Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and two other ministers from stepping down in the oil bribery saga.
“I find the costs astronomical. My office finds the costs unjustified. We are appealing that ridiculous decision. Nowhere in Ugandan or in East Africa have such costs been awarded,” Freddie Ruhindi, deputy attorney general stressed.
Ruhindi was responding to a petition raised in Parliament by Theodore Ssekikuubo (Lwemiyaga County) over the court award. Ruhindi said that he had spoken to the official from the attorney general’s office who handled the case and he was told: “the adjudication was done in absence of the attorney general”. The revelation prompted MPs to suspect fraud in the award process.
But Ruhindi said that during the appeal process, they would investigate if there was any foul play or any irregularity.
Chris Baryomunsi, the parliamentary commissioner said Parliament had attempted to appeal the case through the same court but they were frustrated. Baryomunsi said the day the team of lawyers representing Parliament was asked to appear in court, they found the court empty without any explanations.
Cecilia Ogwal (Dokolo district) asked the government to take action against the judicial officials who could be involved in a foul play.
Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu West) said the judiciary budget was almost sh12b per year yet the judges decided to award sh12b to one person. Ssewungu said that despite the fact that the judges were earning low pay, they were insensitive in awarding carelessly tax payer’s money.
President Yoweri Museveni maintains that the allegations against the ministers brought by MP Gerald Karuhanga (Independent) were false, but the parliamentary committee that was headed by Michael Werikhe has to date not presented its report citing lack of funding to travel abroad for investigations.
Severino Twinobusingye dragged the Attorney General to the Constitutional Court following resolutions by Parliament requiring Mbabazi to step aside. The five judges on the Coram declared those declarations null and void in February last year and awarded Twinobusingye the costs.
The other ministers are Sam Kutesa of Foreign Affairs and Hillary Onek formerly minister of energy and minerals and now internal affairs minister.
Twinobusingye argued that Parliament denied the ministers fair hearing before passing a resolution to try and force them to step aside, which was unconstitutional.
The judges included then Deputy Chief Justice Alice Mpagi-Bahingeine, Steven Kavuma, Augustine Nshimye, Stella Arach Amoko and Remmy Kasule.
Asking for the costs before the Registrar, Eriasi Kisawuzi, Twinobusingye's lawyers, John Mary Mugisha and Chris Bakiza argued that the petition had been quite complex, entailing extensive research, study of national regional and international authorities or judicial precedents from other courts.
State Attorneys George Kalemera and Daniel Gantungo had opposed the amount asked for by Twinobusigye's lawyers saying that the matter was not as difficult and involving as Twinobusingye's lawyers said. Kalemera said that it even took less than four hours to conclude and proposed sh30m as costs.