Challenges that await Mao at Justice ministry

Newly appointed Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Norbert Mao takes oath as an Ex-Officio Member of Parliament on August 2, 2022. PHOTO | DAVID LUBOWA

On Friday last week, Mr Norbert Mao took office at the Justice and Constitutional Affairs ministry on Parliamentary Avenue in Kampala.

President Museveni appointed Mr Mao into his Cabinet barely a fortnight ago through a cooperation deal between the two political parties.

As the leader of Opposition Democratic Party (DP) takes over the mantle at the Justice ministry, at least 11 challenges await him.

Outstanding court award arrears 

According to the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mr Robert Kasande, despite effectively defending government in court, the outstanding court awards arrears are more than Shs225b.

He attributed the arrears to limited annual budgets of the ministry.

“This is further aggravated by continuous accrual of interests in court awards,” Mr Kasande said as Mr Mao assumed office on Friday.

Awareness of citizens of their rights

Mr Mao comes into office when the citizens are increasingly aware of their human and constitutional rights hence leading to increased litigation against the government.

“As a result of continued development and prosperity for all, people are more aware of their rights. This has resulted in increased litigation in human rights and constitutional related matters,” Mr Kasande said.

“Besides, the improvement in the economy has also led to increase in commercial civil litigation against government. The increase in the workload does not correspond with the existing ministry’s labour force due to understaffing. This is a big challenge,” he added.

The government banned its officials from unnecessary travels abroad to cut costs.  The ban has since affected the work of state attorneys.

“Ban on travel abroad affects our ability to attend to international courts and tribunals and meetings that require physical presence,”  Mr Kasande said.

More challenges

Other challenges include lack of adequate and timely instructions from the ministries that they represent in courts, inadequate transport facilities, few law council and regional offices, and case backlog at Law Council due to lack of time by the members on the disciplinary committee to regularly meet to hear complaints against lawyers.

Others are limited response to requests for additional information and documents from clients, limited funding, budget cuts as a result of consumptive nature of ministry activities such as court attendance, drafting of laws, travel abroad to present government, and increasing requests for compensation which require substantial funding.

Mao’s promise

While taking over office, Mr Mao  promised to ensure that more prosecutors are recruited to match the number of judicial officers in order to reduce case backlog. “The majority of backlog in the Judiciary is not because we have fewer judges, and magistrates, it is also because the state does not have as many prosecutors, and that is why the Minister of Public Service has pledged to speed up the process of recruiting more because its two-sided,” he said.