KAMPALA, Uganda: On Monday 12th June 2017, Justice Remmy Kasule of the Court of Appeal maintained the 2005 High Court Ruling that rewarded Shs76Bn to former Internal Security Organization (ISO) spies.
Through a representative suit number 164/04, the over 500 spies were represented by three people namely; Henry Waibare, Jeff Lawrence and Jamil Kitandwe. They wanted Court to declare that their employment was illegally terminated, in denial of their terminal and severance packages and as such they had suffered loss and damage.
They prayed for court orders to have them paid terminal benefits, pension, gratuity, arrears of unpaid allowances, money in lieu of notice of termination, medical and transport allowances as well as general damages. On May 20th 2005 High Court’s Judge Okum Wengi J. granted their prayers in entirety and awarded each Shs500, 000 for general damages.
Upon this ruling, the President Yoweri Museveni delegated his Minister Frank Tumwebaze to oversee the payment of the Shs72 Billion to the hitherto aggrieved security operatives. In his wisdom, the minister, together with the spies’ representatives elected to create a company, UVETISO, went into negotiations with the Attorney General and Finance Ministry to reduce the figure to only Shs36Bn.
“It is agreed by the parties hereto that payment will be effected by the Ministry of Finance…by way of electronic transfer made out in the name of the plaintiffs’ association UVETISO Association Limited Account Number 0145034204600, Crane Bank… and that upon completion of payment of above said sum the indebtedness of the of the Government to the judgement creditors shall be extinguished,” reads the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
Signed by the Treasury Secretary and Finance Ministry PS Keith Muhakanizi, Attorney General and the spies’ representative lawyer John Matovu, the May 21st 2014 signed MOU suggests that a part payment of Shs10bn be done and the rest be paid in instalments of three financial years. “The judgement creditors (Read spies), agree not to pursue any other claim related to this claim in future,” the MOU concludes.
Shs10Bn was paid following the MOU signing and the rest (29,180,499,715) was to be paid until through the 2017/18 financial year. But in his ruling, the Justice Kasule said this arrangement was in abuse of the High Court judgement that awarded the Shs72Bn and quashed the same.
“The remedies to be pursued must be those that ensure that the judgment of the court is respected and complied within its entirety by all parties to the suit. The judgment debtor (Attorney General) has to fulfil what the judgment orders him to do. The judgment creditors (former spies) must get in full what the judgment has awarded to them. The remedies must be to ensure that a court of law does not act in vain whatever the circumstances,” ruled the Judge.
This ruling in brief means that Justice Kasule has reversed the Government’s negotiations that reduced the Shs72Bn to Shs36Bn to nonexistence. However, this can only cause a loss of just a few Billions, given the fact that the reduced figure hadn’t been paid out in full. Nevertheless, it is very important to note that such rulings become an authority.
Several judgement creditors have had their court rewards reduced for years and government has always walked away with it. The problem is people can’t keep in slumber all the time. If Justice Kasule’s ruling is picked up by any aggrieved beneficiary who has had their awards resized and shared (as always is the case), Government should brace for Trillions of Shillings in losses via such reversed agreements. I rest my case.