Government running without IGG, Chief justice

Tuesday July 14 2020

Ex-IGG Irene Mulyagonja and Retired Chief

Ex-IGG Irene Mulyagonja and Retired Chief Justice Bart Katureebe. FILE PHOTOS 

By ANTHONY WESAKA

For close to three weeks, the country has gone without a substantive Chief Justice to oversee the judiciary and Inspector General of Government (IGG), the ombudsman.
The position of the Chief Justice fell vacant on June 20 when the incumbent, Justice Bart Katureebe, retired upon turning 70 years.

The office of the Chief Justice is now run by deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo.

The new substantive Chief Justice will be the 13th since 1962 when Uganda got its independence.

The office of the IGG fell vacant on July 5 when the Second Term of Justice Irene Mulyagonja expired.

Another office in the administration of justice that has been vacant for several months is that of the Chief Registrar of Courts.

The office fell vacant late last year when the office bearer, Ms Esta Nambayo, was appointed to the High Court as judge.

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Registrar Tom Chemutai has since been holding the office awaiting appointment of the substantive Chief Registrar.

Ms Pheona Wall Nabasa, the vice president of Uganda Law Society, said the vacuum may lead to governance issues.

“The retirement of the Chief Justice was known more than a year ago. We currently do not have an IGG and a Chief Registrar that is substantive. This creates governance issues but also speaks to the succession and manpower planning gaps in our Public Service and Judiciary,” Ms Nabasa said in a telephone interview on Monday.

She added: “In this Covid-19 crisis, we need leadership in the Judiciary because of the level of innovation needed to catch up with the backlog that is quickly doubling. Likewise, access to justice is a basic human right under the Constitution but for as long as these very key positions are not filled, a lot of key decisions will be delayed and the resulting uncertainty will cause even bigger problems.”

Ms Nabasa further said the Administration of Judiciary Bill that has just been enacted needs to be made a reality after there is a substantive Chief Justice.

The Judicial Service Commission, a government body mandated with recruitment and disciplinary of judicial officers, has said it interviewed the candidates for the Chief Justice position and submitted the names to the President for selection of the most eligible person.

This is not the first time the country has gone without a substantive Chief Justice. Following the retirement of former Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki in March 2013, the country went for two years without a substantive Chief Justice.

Response
The Attorney General, Mr William Byaruhanga, said given the sensitivity of the offices, the President will take time studying the candidates.

“All those positions you are referring to are delicate so the appointing authority doesn’t want to rush into making appointments and he makes mistakes. The good thing, we have people acting in all those positions, so we don’t have a leadership vacuum,” he said.

awesaka@ug.nationmedia.com

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