The new Attorney General, Mr Kiryowa Kiwanuka, has said he will stop hiring of external lawyers to argue out government cases and save the country billions of shillings.
Mr Kiryowa reasoned that since the Attorney General’s chambers is the largest law firm in the country, with 141 capable lawyers, there is no need of wasting tax payers’ money on external lawyers.
“We must as professionals realise our full potential, we must dig deep and find that place for which we were trained. In the next five years, we must do everything humanely possible to remove or extremely reduce the external counsel work in these chambers,” Mr Kiryowa said yesterday while taking over office from Mr William Byaruhanga.
He added: “We have the training, we have the ability and we must work towards achieving that. So, I therefore, implore each of you to work with me in the coming years to see that the people of Uganda get the best out of this office.”
Government has in the past been hiring lawyers from powerful law firms locally and abroad to argue on its behalf cases before local, regional and international courts.
Some of these cases include Uganda’s case in neighbouring DR Congo before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Uganda hired the services of a Washington DC-based law firm, Foley Hoag LLP, and the case is pending judgment in the next five to six months.
The other is the Shs397b commercial dispute that had been filed against city tycoon, Sudhir Ruparelia by Crane Bank in receivership, where government initially hired MMAKS Advocates and AF Mpanga Advocates, which court later disqualified citing conflict of interest.
Bank of Uganda, later for purposes of continuity of the case, hired another external law firm; Sebalu & Lule Advocates, which was also disqualified over alleged conflict of interest before hiring Byamugisha & Co. Advocates.
The Electoral Commission has also over the years hired external lawyers of Tumusiime, Kabega Advocates and Kampala Associated Advocates (KAA).
The RVR arbitration case in London and the famous oil case, are among other cases against Uganda in diaspora which required it to hire external lawyers. During the handover ceremony, Mr Byaruhanga told his successor that the office is very busy and crucial to the day- to-day running of the government machinery.
“As I had previously indicated to you and I am sure, you have ascertained it for yourself by now, the other day, I had an appointment with you and on your way to meet me, you were called by the Prime Minister and the Speaker…,” Mr Byaruhanga said.
Mr Byaruhanga, who revealed that he had known and interacted with Mr Kiryowa said the appointing authority made the right choice for his successor.
“Handing over this office to Mr Kiryowa is satisfying, why, because I have known and interacted with him for many years. Certainly, I know he is patriotic, professional and has a high sense of duty and above all, impeccable qualities of a lawyer,” he said.
Solicitor General Francis Atoke used the same event to list some of the challenges that the new Attorney General should address.
They include inadequate number of state attorneys to defend government in court, low pay for staff, very minimal budget of Shs155b, and lack of a permanent home for the ministry of Justice.
Mr Kiryowa promised to address some of the challenges starting with staff welfare.