Check government payouts over lost court cases

Monday April 15 2019


By Editor

The government has an outstanding bill of Shs357.8 billion, money it will pay to individuals and organisations that won cases against it, this newspaper reported yesterday.

In the 2019/20 Financial Year, therefore, Finance ministry will fork out Shs140b in court awards. Sad as it is, it is not the first time government is paying out or compelled by court to pay billions of shillings due to bad decisions made by its officials.
In fact, in 2017, according to the Auditor General’s report, government court awards liabilities stood in excess of Shs680 billion.
The latest revelation of how much government is supposed to pay out by Mr Lawrence Ssemakula, the Accountant General of Government, calls for reflection on how those entrusted to make decisions on behalf of the public take us for granted.

Most of the money to be paid out, according to the Sunday Monitor story, are as a result of reckless decisions by public officials to forcefully acquire private land. Why would a sensible official, if he or she is not acting out of malice or collusion, acquire private property using State machinery well knowing the consequences?
This is money, for instance, that can be used in very critical areas to benefit the less privileged.

The Uganda Heart Institute for example, has been pleading with government to give it just Shs6b to procure super specialised supplies needed to perform 400 surgeries. A few Ugandans can afford to seek medical treatment abroad and having operations here, is the best option they can get.
The facility has proven beyond doubt that it can handle the task at hand, performing at least 500 surgeries per year. Imagine what more we can do with billions of shillings that will be paid to out.
The government should look deep into the matter and held all those involved in the process to account.

Why would an official keep his job after making taxpayers lose money? Why not confiscate some of their property to compensate the taxpayer? Some of the claimants of the said money - we understand - are ministers. We can start the battle from there.
In the same view, we ask that government meets its obligations of settling out debts quickly to avoid interests that come with it over time in case appeals fail.
The government can also do a soul searching on its legal arm; are they doing enough?