It recently emerged in sections of the media that the Secretary to the Treasury who is also the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Mr Keith Muhakanizi, faced what he referred to as “dark forces” over his approach to settling court awards and compensations.
The issue of court awards and compensations has remained contentious in government circles over the years.
The 2017 Auditor General’s report, for instance, notes that government liabilities in court awards and compensations stood at Shs684 billion as at June 30, 2016, rising from Shs54 billion in the last five years. In some instances, the interest was exceeding the principle, with the accumulated interest at Shs175.3 billion.
In his 2016 report, the Auditor General also noted that Shs4,330,041,624,839 was recorded as contingent liabilities in court cases against the government as at June 30, 2015. This amount has probably increased. These liabilities as the Auditor General notes “create additional burden on public resources”.
The move by the Secretary to the Treasury to enter into negotiations with the claimants on how the awards are to be paid should instead be hailed, not frustrated by legalese.
It is appreciated that court awards have to be paid, but we are also cognisant of the fact that some court awards have arisen due to a deliberate and or negligence of some public servants, collusion between some court and judicial officials, and similar related circumstances.
Mr Muhakanizi has over time been reaching out to willing claimants and in the process, tax payers’ money has been saved. This indicates that the approach being used is effective and should be hailed, considering the circumstances under which certain court awards are given.
Over time, court awards have been on the rise and unfortunately, it is the taxpayer that has to foot the bill.
So as taxpayers, we applaud efforts by anyone that endeavours to save our monies.
As citizens, we desire for improved service delivery in social sectors, and with the rampant court awards, the desired service delivery will continue to be a myth. Sanctioning of court awards also competes with other government priorities, and taking Mr Muhakanizi to court will not address the issue.
What needs to be done is to investigate the nature of cases that government loses, circumstances under which those cases are settled out of court and or lost, etc.
Government should not allow court awards and compensations to increase to exponential levels. Priority should be given to high interest cases when prioritising compensation. Government should further adopt a systematic and harmonised approach to compensation to avoid issues of bribery, connivance and collusion.
Right now, it is syndicates in government that determine who is paid first.
Civil servants, who deliberately make government lose money through court awards and compensations, should be held liable individually. Such officials should be fired, prosecuted and the monies recovered.
Mr Muhakanizi’s approach, which includes negotiating with court awardees and paying in a scheduled manner, should be applauded.
Ms Kagaba the director Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda