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INSIDE STORY: Who is letting down Government Lawyers’ Better Remuneration?

Justice minister Maj.Gen. Kahinda Otafiire and Mr. William Byaruhanga the Attorney General (Inset)

On 4th July last week, State attorneys under the Attorney General’s Chambers joined their counterparts from the Director of Public prosecution (DPP) to demand for salary enhancement.

The State Prosecutors under the DPP had just met the minister of Justice and constitutional affairs Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafire and gave him ultimatum of 14 days within which to have their salary increment attended too or face a sit down strike.

In their petition, the attorneys highlight several reasons for the enhancement which involve boosting their moral towards work, curtail possible Vulnerability to temptations given the sensitivity and huge amounts of money involved in the files/ matters that they handle, and Perpetual financial distress resulting into continuous financial embarrassment contrary to Public Service standing orders.

They therefore demand a monthly salary of about UGX.12 Million to match their heavy work load and put them at per with partners in law firms in private practice since they are barred to any sort of private practice.

According to the Equal Opportunities Commission Study Report on Salaries Disparities in the Public Service of May, 2017, there are disparities in the remuneration of legal officers/ cadre in different Government Departments like the Parliamentary Commission, Kampala Capital City Authority, Uganda National Roads Authority, Bank of Uganda, Office of the Auditor General, National Social Security Fund etc.

Mr. Francis Atoke the Solicitor General

These Government agencies offer more attractive remuneration to their legal officers than State Attorneys who incidentally often have the same qualifications as State Attorneys and in the course of their duties these better-paying agencies depend on the advice of the Attorney General Chambers to do their work, through legal opinions, representation in Court, drafting legal instruments among others.

Thus, currently there is wide salary disparities between the traditional civil service who includes State Attorneys and statutory bodies established by Acts of Parliament. For instance, a director in a Government Ministry earns UGX. 2,369,300 per month while a deputy director in KCCA earns UGX. 27,000,000 per month.

It should be noted that all the Government departments with or without legal departments rely on the Attorney Generals Chambers in executing their duties. Furthermore, the sensitivity of the cases explains why State Attorneys are not allowed to carry out private legal practice.

“It is important to have salary enhancement so that we are not forced to supplement our income elsewhere thus giving divided attention to our work. With the kind of experience acquired from the Attorney General’s Chambers after 3 years of work, one is qualified to be a partner in a leading law firm and therefore his or her salary should be commensurate to reflect this”, the petition affirmed.

So who is curtailing the Lawyer’s better Pay?

Our insider sources indicate that following the lawyers persistent lobbying for better pay in as far as 2005,  President Museveni directed, then Hon. Dr. E. Suruma, (the then Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development), reminded the 2nd Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Service that in his letter Ref: BPD 86/150/01 dated 24th July 2006, he had forwarded “the issue of inadequate capacity and remuneration of State Attorneys in the Attorney General’s Chambers and advised that the matter be addressed during the preparation of the budget for 2007/08”. (Letter Ref: HRM/155/222/01 dated 14th November 2006 addressed to Hon. Henry M.Kajura, 2nd Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Service).

Public Service PS Catherine Musingwire (Left) and Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi.

In the FY2007/08, the former Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Treasury the late Chris Kasami, by his letter dated 5th May 2007 provided UGX 5 Billion for enhancement of salaries for State Attorneys in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

Our sources however indicate that the directive of the President was blatantly ignored. Instead of enhancing the salaries of the State Attorneys in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the Ministry of Public Service arbitrarily “placed the money in a pool” and distributed it amongst officers in the Directorate of Public Prosecution’s Office, Uganda Law Reform Commission and the Judiciary. This was contrary to the presidential directive which position was stated in the letter from the Permanent Secretary/ Secretary to the Treasury to the Ministry of Public Service.

President Museveni again in November 2016 directed the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development to increase the salaries of government lawyers in the financial year 2017/ 2018 but no action was taken and the same was not reflected in the Budget of the current Financial Year.

“I have however noted that while you are working towards increasing the salary of Government lawyers, you are also seeking authorization to recruit more lawyers. This will have an impact on the budget. We could do one at a time. I, therefore, direct the minster of public service and Finance planning and economic development to start with increasing the salaries of Government lawyers, starting next year and consider more recruitment of the coming financial years” part of the President Museveni’s directive reads.

The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament interfaced with JLOS institutions, the Prime Minister, and the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development on the same issue of salary enhancement and recommended that the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development increases the salary of State Attorneys in the Financial year 2017/ 2018, but no such budgetary allocations have been made in the new Budget.

It should be noted that despite all the efforts from H.E the President, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament, and other institutions; the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and the Ministry of Public Service have blatantly refused to comply.

Further sources have also intimated to us that while the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and the Ministry of Public Service are to blame, the top management at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional affairs especially the Office of the Attorney General and that of the Solicitor General have been so reluctant and shown no concern in perusing the presidential directives.

When the new attorney General William Byaruhanga took oath last year, in his words stated that the issue of salary enhancement will be a priority but he has since then gone mute on the same! We are told that it’s only Maj. General Kahinda who has been pushing for the plight of the lawyers to have better pay.

 

 

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