Wednesday April 17 2013

Lawyers petition court over Parliament’s resolution on Dura Cement pay


A group of lawyers have petitioned the Constitutional Court, seeking to block a parliamentary resolution to blacklist a law firm from all government contracts for allegedly defrauding the country under dubious dealings.

In a petition filed in the Constitutional Court on April 16, seven lawyers trading as Kampala Associated Advocates (KAA) are challenging the actions of Parliament to carry out another financial and value for money audit above the Auditor General’s report to make findings of financial loss to government.

The lawyers; Elly Karuhanga, Peter Kabatsi, Sam Mayanja, Charles Kallu Kalumiya, Joseph Matsiko, Oscar Kambona and David Mpanga; suing through Muwema and Mugerwa Advocates, want court to quash the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament report and be expunged from the records of Parliament and public record.

“Your petitioners have individually and collectively suffered and are likely to further suffer the infringement of their fundamental rights and breaches of the Constitution, whereby the actions of the Parliament as spelt out below are inconsistent with and in contravention of provisions of the Constitutions by reason whereof, your petitioners are aggrieved,” reads part of the petition.

In February this year, Parliament resolved to hold Nyabushozi MP Col. Fred Mwesigye, Mr Karuhanga and Justice Billy Kainamura culpable for their role in the Dura Cement saga.

PAC members said Col. Mwesigye failed to carry out due diligence before extending the cement lease from four to 19 years, leading to a loss of $16.5m (about Shs40b).

The MPs resolved that  Kampala Associated Advocates (KAA) should be blacklisted from all government contracts for defrauding the country under dubious dealings with the Attorney General’s office.

However, describing themselves as senior and distinguished members of the legal profession, the law firm alleges that the conduct of legislators to countermanding and purporting to overrule the advice of the Attorney General to settle the case of Dura Cement Ltd is inconsistent with the Constitution.

In 2008, M/s Dura Cement Ltd instructed the law firm  to sue Attorney General for recovery of compensation as a result of government’s cancellation of its mining lease and contract to construct a third cement factory at Dura in western Uganda.

The case was for recovery of $103,406,100 in damages with interest at 25 per cent for loss of earnings over a period of 21 years, value of price of plant and machinery purchased and loss of goodwill.

“The conduct of Parliament whilst debating, considering and adopting the PAC report purporting to regulate and discipline the legal profession by wantonly accusing your petitioners of unfounded professional misconduct and causing financial loss, intermeddling in advocate/client relationships and ordering the blacklisting of your petitioners is in contravention of the Constitution,” the lawyers argue.  

This is the second time in less than two years for lawyers petitioning the Constitutional Court challenging the conduct and acts of Parliament.

In October 2011, lawyer Saverino Twinobusingye, describing himself as a Kanungu District voter, dragged the Attorney General to court, seeking to block Parliament from investigating, let alone, demanding that his area MP, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, steps aside over oil sector bribes allegations.

The petition that challenged Parliament’s resolutions to set up an ad hoc committee to probe claims of bribery in the oil sector and render useless demands by lawmakers that Mr Mbabazi steps aside to pave way for investigations resulted into a Shs13 billion award to the petitioner.