Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Makerere University’s outstanding legal costs have shot to 62 billion shillings. This is according to the audited Makerere University Financial Statement for the year ended June 30, 2018.
The costs stem from 50 cases against the University.
Sources at the institution, however, say this has been worsened by the practice of outsourcing of the University’s legal representation to outside law firms, which include; Kateera & Co Advocates & Kibeedi & Co Advocates despite the Directorate of Legal Affairs boasting of several well-paid lawyers.
This figure excludes the legal costs of cases filed past June 2018. The 3-page document titled, “Statement of non-quantifiable contingent liabilities” show the costs that the University has set aside to cover its estimated legal costs and legal settlements.
Most cases according to sources emanate from the continued management malaise which for a long time it does not pay attention to issues of retirement benefits, grievance handling and nature of staff recruitment, promotions among others.
In the joint staff association’s petition to the University Council Chairperson, staff leaders say in some cases, staff are simply told to seek court redress while some staff say they suspect a syndicated move by the authorities who connive with the lawyers to defraud the university.
“The University in all these cases, except those involving individual review, is offered the option of settling out of court through the mandatory mediation arrangement under the auspices of courts. For labour-related cases, the mandatory mediation period is 90 days. For civil suits, it’s 60 days,” staff leaders say.
There have been reports previously that Makerere University’s litigation and legal settlements expenditure stands at 5 billion shillings.
The statement excludes costs of legal actions lodged against the University after June last year.
Some of the cases cited is the recent one before High Court Civil Division where Prof. Anthony Mugisha challenged the disputed process of the Search and Appointment of the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration whose legal estimated costs are 30m shillings.
Others include High Court case of 2011 of Joseph Kaddu and 17 others against Makerere and Uganda Institute of Allied Health and Management in which each of the plaintiffs seeks compensatory damages of 250m shillings and estimated legal fees of 20 million shillings.
The case of 2008 between MM Construction Company and Makerere arising out of breach of contract, arbitration proceedings are said to have stalled due to exorbitant fees demanded by the arbitrator among others.
Other staff say that the shocking figures should remind them why they should interest themselves in the governance of their institution. “We all stand to gain from a better-managed university,” another staff member told Uganda Radio Network.
Charles Barugahare, the Makerere University Secretary says the institution is mandated under the law to compile all cases they have in court to assess their liability to the institution.
He, however, argues that the university has never spent as much as 63billion shillings in legal costs.
“These are simply liabilities and they may or may not be paid. It depends on how the court determines the matter. We have never spent more than a billion on legal costs in a financial year. In fact, we have never,” Barugahare says.