Law firm sues Catholic church over Shs900m

Friday November 15 2019

Aggrieved. Mr Ebert Byenkya, lawyer at Byenkya

Aggrieved. Mr Ebert Byenkya, lawyer at Byenkya Kihika & Co Advocates, which sued the church.  

By JULIET KIGONGO

A law firm has sued the Catholic Church for allegedly failing to pay about Shs900m in legal fees.
In the suit filed before the High Court Civil Division, Mr Ebert Byenkya, lawyer at Byenkya Kihika & Co Advocates, states in his affidavit that on November 23, 2018, the church instructed the firm to collect rental arrears from its two pieces of land in Nsambya, including one occupied by Nsambya Police Barracks amounting to about Shs17b.

Mr Byenkya states that it was stipulated that their instruction fees for collecting the debt would be 20 percent of the full amount which would cover all the disbursements necessary to conclude the assignment.
“That pursuant to the aforementioned instructions given to our firm, we initiated the assignment by writing a formal demand letter to the Permanent Secretary/ Secretary to the Treasury, Ministry of Finance on November 29, 2018,” the affidavit reads in part.
Court documents indicate that on June 30, 2019, the law firm made a formal demand of about Shs920m and attached their advocate/client bill of costs demanding that payment be made within 30 days from the said date.

However, during the process to recover the money, Mr Byenkya states that Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga on a number of occasions retracted the instructions, saying that the archdiocese had reconsidered its decision.
“We were availed a copy of a March 22, 2019 letter in which the respondent (church) was authorising a one Mr Edward Kimbugwe and Mr Fred Lubega to collect arrears of ground rent which was the same amount we were pursuing,” Mr Byenkya stated.

“We raised the matter with the respondent as it was likely to create confusion. The respondent subsequently wrote an April 3, 2019 letter retracting their March 22, 2019, saying it was issued in error.”
Mr Byenkya states that the law firm recovered about Shs9b in arrears from the Finance ministry which they later transferred to the account of the archdiocese on April 18.
The firm also claims that the church has not issued to them a notice requiring the taxing master to tax the advocate/client bill of costs as is required by Section 58(1) of the Advocates Act.

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