Chief Justice Spits Fire Over Budget Injustice

In unprecedented stance that took many by surprise, the Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo has vented palpable anger in public and taken President Yoweri Museveni to task over the inequalities in budget allocations among the three arms of government.  

At the opening of the New Law Year 2021 in Kampala where Museveni was the Chief guest, he Chief Justice launched his onslaught at the financial injustice by describing inequality between Parliament and the Judiciary in terms of manpower facilitation, lack of infrastructure and lack of transport for judicial officers.   

He then wondered how for instance the new members of parliament are going to get cars valued at more than 300 million shillings each immediately yet some judicial officers use motorcycles to go to courts and some lucky ones from rich families use their cars as offices. 

Owiny-Dollo also complained how parliament can be able to split the country into so many constituencies and districts but again fail to increase on the structural number of judicial areas, saying that at the moment there are 43 magistrates working in 146 districts.

  Owiny-Dollo who spoke while pointing directly at Museveni as the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga looked on speechlessly, also gave an example of the last five years where the Judiciary has been getting 0.54 percent of the national budget yet  parliament gets 1.69 percent which is three times higher than theirs. He said may be the government sees the Judiciary as a consumer which is not the case but such issues affect the dispensation of justice in the country.      

According to the budgets approved by parliament in the  past two financial years, in 2019/2021 Financial Year budget, the Judiciary received 181.6 billion shillings and Parliament got 687.7 billion shillings of the 40 trillion national budget.  Also in the financial year 2020-2021, the Judiciary got 199 billion shillings and Parliament got 672.8 billion shillings of the 45 trillion national budget.

But in response to the said complaints Museveni said that majority of them resulted after the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution and Owiny-Dollo was a member of the Constituency Assembly that gave Parliament more powers to budget for themselves and other government institutions including the Executive and Judiciary arms of government.

  Therefore, according to Museveni, Owiny-Dollo needs to first repent his sins committed during the Constituency Assembly before he can go on to complain. 

  The president says  the decision to give parliament such powers was poorly planned and therefore he promised to convene a meeting with the Speaker of Parliament, the Attorney General, Justice Minister and Owiny-Dollo himself to see how they can harmonize issues of inequalities within the three arms of government.

Museveni  also told the Judicial Officers that they should not be angry citing that the army is one of the institutions working under poor conditions but they have been serving the country well hence peace and stability.

He also promised to increase the number of judicial officers in a phased manner depending on the availability of resources. 

The President Elect further told the judicial officers  that there is no problem with all the sub counties in the country getting Magistrates because it was provided for under the National Resistance Movement manifesto for the next five years. According to Museveni, the government is interested in seeing cases involving investors decided quickly. He urged the judicial officers also to make decisions that are able to bring peace and harmony.

In June 2020, Museveni assented to the Administration of Judiciary bill thereby turning it into law. It among others strengthens the independence of the Judiciary by streamlining the provision and management of its funds and establishing structures within the Justice system to improve their performance.   However, to date, the act is yet to be operationalized.

Meanwhile the Law Society President Pheonah Wall Nabaasa has appealed to the president to appoint the head of Uganda Human Rights Commission. She argued that at the moment there are several human rights violation cases pending before the Commission but they cannot be resolved due to lack of Quorum.  

She also called upon Museveni to fulfill his five billion shillings’ pledge towards the construction of the home of the Uganda Law Society.