Court ruling stirs up National Drug Authority

On September 12, Justice Stephen Musota ruled in favour of Ms Florence Nakacwa, ordering that she be reinstated to her job and Ms Donna Asiimwe Kusemererwa leave NDA.

Approved payment. NDA board chairman Dr Medard Bitekyerezo. FILE PHOTO  



Tension is brewing within the National Drug Authority (NDA) with a section of employees accusing the Board led by former Mbarara Municipality MP Medard Bitekyerezo of mismanaging the organisation.

Documents leaked by NDA staff show that Mr Bitekyerezo approved a payment of Shs35.4m to Ms Donna Asiimwe Kusemererwa, the former executive director who was thrown out by court, to clear legal fees yet she was in court in her personal capacity.

Ms Nakacwa and NDA were successfully sued in the Civil Division of the High Court by Ms Florence Nakacwa, to whom Ms Kusemererwa had communicated what she calls a board decision to sack her.

Apart from seeking to be re-instated to her job, Ms Nakacwa, through her lawyer Kituuma Magala, also challenged the appointment of Ms Kusemererwa as executive director, a position she argued did not exist in the NDA Act. The court granted both requests, among other orders, and Ms Kusemererwa has since left NDA.

Asked why NDA had to pay Ms Kusemererwa’s legal fees, Mr Bitekyerezo said: “If you write a bad article and you are taken to Nalufenya doesn’t Monitor pay your legal fees? If the answer is yes, why shouldn’t we defend her? We have to protect her, it was a Board resolution.”

In a telephone interview, Ms Kusemererwa argued: “I applied for the job like any other Ugandan, did several interviews and got hired. The question of why the job advertised was of executive director and not of secretary is not for me to answer; it is for the Board that advertised the job.”

The job was advertised by the board that was chaired by Dr Sam Zaramba, which preceded Mr Bitekyerezo’s board. Dr Zaramba could not be reached for a comment for this story.
The employees we talked to accuse the Board of abusing funds because the money given to Ms Kusemererwa was not in the approved budget and no supplementary budget was passed to that effect.

Also, they argue, the lawyers to whom the money was paid, Lumonya, Bushara & Co Advocates, were not prequalified to provide legal services to NDA and therefore that PDDA rules were violated. In addition, the critics take issue with the fact that the Shs35.4m was paid into Ms Kusemererwa’s personal account and not directly to the lawyers.
But Mr Bitekyerezo insists that settling Ms Kusemererwa’s legal fees was a resolution of the Board.

The ruling
On September 12, Justice Stephen Musota ruled in favour of Ms Nakacwa, ordering that she be re-instated to her job and Ms Kusemererwa leaves NDA because the position she occupied was non-existent.
In a ruling that rocked NDA, the court further ordered, among other things, that the organisational structure then in use, adopted on March 9, be set aside and quashed in as long as it still carried the title of executive director and did not provide for positions of drug inspectors, assistant drug inspector and the statutory drugs bureau.

The issue of the organisational structure is still contentious, with our sources accusing the board of trying to use it to force out some employees it disagrees with and retaining positions that are not provided for in the NDA Act.

Ms Kusemererwa and NDA applied to the High Court to stay the execution of the orders pending appeal against the ruling in the Court of Appeal, but Judge Christopher Madrama Izama dismissed the application with costs on November 7.
Mr Bitekyerezo, however, said by the time the court ruled against the said structure, the board had already revised it.

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