By Andante Okanya
THE High Court in Kampala has permitted the 520 registered pharmacies to file a representative suit challenging the licence fees and other charges imposed by the National Drug Authority (NDA) since 2011.
The permission was granted on March 21 by the civil division assistant registrar Eleanor Khainza. The pharmacies are set to demand for a refund of all money they claim was illegally paid to NDA.
The order was prompted by Signa- Chemie Enterprises which filed an application on February 25, seeking permission to sue on its behalf and that of 519 others.
The drug authority is accused of collecting illegal fees without proper approval since January 2011.
"It is hereby ordered that the applicant (Signa-Chemie) be and is hereby given permission of this court to sue the respondents (NDA) on behalf of itself and all other persons or entities from whom NDA has collected assorted registration and licensing fees and charges without proper authorization since January 1, 2011," the order reads in part.
The court order is to also be served to all members of the proposed class by public advertisement in the newspapers and the court notice board.
The order was granted in the presence of lawyers for the pharmacists Denis Sembuya of Kavuma Kabenge and Company Advocates, Isaac Semakadde and Eron Kiiza of Centre for Legal Aid.
NDA was not represented, as this was an ex-parte application, on which court hears only submissions from one side.
Last year on September 9, the authority executive secretary Gordon Sematiko issued Circular Number 001-FIN/2013 stipulating new fees structure for registration and licencing of all pharmacies countrywide. He stated that the fees took effect on July 2013.
Signa-Chemie executive director Simmons Okello Okidihas sworn an affidavit, asserting that the “impugned circular is not a statutory instrument duly made by the relevant authority (Health minister) and is therefore inoperative, null and void."
NDA increased licence renewal fees to operate a retail pharmacy in Kampala Central division from sh300,000 to sh600,000.
Inspection fees and ascertaining suitability of premises was doubled from sh300,000 to sh600,000. License to operate a drug shop in Kampala was fixed at sh120,000, drug shops in municipalities at sh75,000, and sh45,000
In exclusive interview with New Vision in last year in September, NDA executive secretary Gordon Sematiko justified the increment, arguing that the rise in operational costs compelled the body to revise the fees upwards.
On Friday, Sembuya told New Vision that he had completed drafting the civil suit to be served on NDA.