Saturday June 28 2014

Lawyer probed over Shs15b pay in pensioners’ case


Police are investigating whether judicial officers of the High Court, including a judge, played a role in the alleged illegal payment of Shs15 billion from Public Service ministry to a lawyer before the case was concluded in court.
The money was paid in 2011 and 2012 to a lawyer after he allegedly presented a court order to the then Principal Accountant of Public Service, Mr Christopher Obey and the interdicted Permanent Secretary, Mr Jimmy Lwamafa, authorising payment of legal fees for a case which had not yet been concluded in court.

Mr Obey and Lwamafa are facing similar charges before the Anti-Corruption Court.
The judge, John Keitirima and the judiciary spokesman Erias Kisawuzi [who was the court registrar] have recorded statements with the detectives in connection with the suspected issuance of a questionable court order.
It is alleged that the controversial order with a court seal was signed by Judge Keitirima when he was still deputy High Court registrar. He is now a judge.

Both Mr Keitirima and Mr Kisawuzi have disassociated themselves from the purported order and its seal.
They insist the case in question is still ongoing in court and therefore no legal fees could have been awarded at this stage.
Mr Kisawuzi confirmed yesterday (Friday) that he and the judge had recorded statements but declined to divulge whether the said order was issued by the court or not.

The Police Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Director, Ms Grace Akullo, on Thursday confirmed that they were investigating the matter but declined to give details.
The case in question arose when 6300 former civil servants represented by lawyer John Matovu sued Attorney General for unlawful retrenchment in 1992. The former civil servants wanted the government to pay them pension and general damages. The two parties reached an agreement in 2000 to be paid their wages.

However, they were not paid damages. They went back to court, which awarded each of them Shs4.5m as damages at eight per cent interest per annum.
However the responsible government officials refused to give the pensioners’ lawyer Matovu his legal fees.

Mr Matovu approached another lawyer, Mr Bob Kasango, who claimed to have “good connections” in government to pursue the recovery of the legal fees for him.

A government legal counsel from the Attorney General’s office and Mr Kasango met before Keitirima, who was then deputy registrar of the High Court. But Mr Keitirima threw out Kasango because the court hadn’t received communication that he was the new legal representative of the pensioners in the case.

However it is unclear how Kasango later secured a court order bearing a signature resembling that of Mr Keitirima, showing that court had awarded Shs15 billion as legal fees for representation of the pensioners to be paid to Mr Matovu and Kasango.
Police have submitted the said order to handwriting experts to establish whether the signature and seal on it were forged.

It is alleged that the said money was paid to Kasango who refused or failed to remit it to Mr Matovu. Mr Matovu said he did not receive his legal fees and has sued Kasango in the Commercial Court.
The case is pending hearing.
Mr Kasango refused to pick our calls or answer our text messages to his mobile phone.