A report from Legal and Parliamentary Committee has revealed that during the Financial Year 2019/2020, Attorney General William Byaruhanga and his team represented Government in various courts of judicature and Tribunals, which saw him lose cases to a tune of Shs5.079Bn in a single year.
According to the report to Parliament, the Attorney General won 14 cases and 24 were lost and of the 14 cases won saved Government Shs1.152Bn while the 9 cases lost were equivalent to Shs1.590Bn and USD892,695 equivalent to Shs3.289Bn, bringing the total to Shs5.079Bn.
In their explanation to Parliament, the Attorney General’s chambers blamed the high amount of cases lost on nature of cases especially from various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) resulting from breach of contracts, government departments failing to give evidence and failing to appear in court.
The Attorney General added that the high amount of cases lost arose from failure of some agencies from giving evidence and failing to appear in court.
As such, Parliament wants Ministries, Departments and Agencies to make provision in their budget estimates for 2021/22 for the costs of the cases lost in court as a result of their omissions or commissions for which the Office of the Attorney General has defended.
However, Judicature’s performance if further tainted by concerns by Parliament on the escalating levels of court awards, reported at Shs449Bn. The Ministry of Justice has targeted to settle 6.2% of the total compensation bill and has budgeted Shs27.68Bn in 2021/22.
Parliament called for the decentralization of court awards so that the concerned government department become responsible for the payment of court awards from 2016/2017.
The Judiciary also disposed a total of 131,385 cases compared to 173,200 in 2018/2019, with the entity blaming the 24% reduction on the effects of COVID-19 pandemic as the Judiciary reduced the operations of courts.
Despite that argument from Judiciary, Parliament expressed concerns over the disposal rate of commercial cases that currently stand at 35% while that of land matters is at 27%.
There were also concerns on the average time taken to dispose cases at various courts, that was found to be extremely high at over 100 days on average affecting the cost of doing business in the country and access to Justice.
At Supreme Court level it takes an average of 1,572 and 802 days respectively. At Magistrate courts it takes an average of 325 days. This has created huge case backlog in the Judiciary. In order to reverse this trend, an additional Shs129.67Bn is required to increase the disposal rate of cases at all court levels.
The committee recommends that Judiciary establishes mechanisms to increase the disposal rate of cases and Government should provide an additional Shs129.67Bn over the medium term from the current provision of Shs61.25Bn to enhance case disposal rate all Court levels.