Lawyer in tussle with railway firm cries foul

Kampala Railway Station. Court documents seen by Sunday Monitor show that Mr Kituuma-Magala’s firm defended Uganda Railways Corporation in several suits relating to the dispute of ownership of 93.61 acres of prime land in Kampala valued at Shs561.6 billion. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • President Museveni ordered Works and Transport minister Gen Katumba Wamala to effect a purge at URC targeting both the board and top management. 

A lawyer locked in a multi-billion legal fees fight with Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) has accused the State House Anti-Corruption Unit of trying to intimidate him and thwart his efforts to obtain what he believes is owed to him.

Court documents seen by Monitor show that Mr Patrick Grace Kituuma-Magala’s law firm is owed more than Shs45.1 billion before tax in legal fees for services rendered to URC over a seven-year period.

In an October 3, 2022, letter, President Museveni ordered Works and Transport minister Gen Katumba Wamala to effect a purge at URC targeting both the board and top management. In the same letter Mr Museveni raised a red flag against the money that was allegedly paid out to Mr Kituuma-Magala’s firm.

In the letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mr Kituuma-Magala explains that his firm has never been paid the alleged Shs1.2 billion and faults the investigating body for “compromis[ing] my non derogable rights to a fair hearing.”
On March 9, 2021, through his lawyers Ms Kwesigabo, Bamwiine and Walubiri Advocates, Mr Kituuma-Magala presented his legal bill to URC. The Advocate-Client Bill was later filed at the High Court after URC neither paid the bill nor applied for its taxation.

Court documents seen by this publication show that Mr Kituuma-Magala’s firm defended URC in several suits relating to the dispute of ownership of 93.61 acres of prime land in Kampala valued at Shs561.6 billion. The firm was also involved in the disputes over compensation for part of this land by Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA). 
“The applicant engaged the respondent [URC] in repeated correspondences and meetings to agree to fees payable for the applicant’s more than seven years of legal services, but no agreement was reached and this prompted the applicant to serve on the respondent a summarised bill of costs in the sum of Shs45,143,228,000,” Mr Kituuma-Magala’s affidavit in support of an application against URC reads in part.

Investigations
Monitor has seen a letter written on July 11, 2022, by the police to Mr Kituuma-Magala, asking him to report to authorities at the State House Anti-Corruption Unit in relation to land matters his law firm handled on behalf of URC.

“The Criminal Investigations Directorate in liaison with State House Anti-Corruption Unit is conducting inquiries into corruption allegations at [URC],” the letter authored by Mr Jackson Tweheyo on behalf of the director Criminal Investigations reads in part.
In the letter, Mr Kituuma-Magala was asked to avail a number of files to the State House unit. These include instructions to represent URC in all matters since 2013, contract agreements, all invoices to URC, and proof of payment by URC for handling the matters.

They further demanded for Mr Kituuma-Magala’s letter to the managing director  of URC dated November 9, 2020, demand letters to the corporation secretary dated December 18, 2021, and January 4, 2022, another letter to the URC corporation secretary dated March 18, 2021, and a letter from the URC corporation secretary to Mr Kituuma-Magala’s firm dated May 5, 2021, forwarding a draft contract.

Further, Mr Kituuma-Magala was required to furnish the unit with a service level agreement for the provision of legal and advisory services between URC and his firm, an email from the corporation secretary on July 4, 2022, relating to the SLA, his response dated July 5, 2022, and finally all correspondences between URC and his firm. He was required to report to the unit’s offices at the President’s office on July 14 for interview and statement recording.  Two days later, Mr Kituuma-Magala responded through his lawyers.

Under the principle of fair hearing, Mr Kituuma-Magala’s lawyers told investigators that their client is entitled to be informed in reasonable detail the nature of the corruption allegation being investigated in URC before he could adequately prepare to respond to the requests in the letter.  
Specifically, they demanded their client be told whether he was required to appear as a suspect or witness. “Apparently, the issue you are allegedly investigating and understood in the context of the documents you refer to relate to our client’s professional services to URC. They relate to an advocate-client relationship which is fiduciary and confidential,” Kituuma-Magala’s lawyers wrote.

Release of documents
The lawyers told the State House unit investigators that releasing the documents requested for would be in breach of the Advocates Regulations. They further argued that Mr Kituuma-Magala was not the author of documents originating from URC and could therefore not certify them
They further notified the Uganda Law Society on the “interference with advocate-client relationship by State authorities”. Pending a response from the State House unit, they proposed the meeting be pushed to July 20 or 21, 2022.

The director of Criminal Investigations through whom the State House unit was channelling its requests did not respond, according to the documents seen by this publication.  Instead Mr Kituuma-Magala’s law firm received a call allegedly from the State House unit, which the lawyers in a July 15, 2022, letter term as “harsh and intimidating.”  They said the manner in which the caller allegedly from the unit represented himself derogated Mr Kituuma-Magala’s right to a fair hearing. They proceeded to respond in detail in a July 15, 2022, letter, including questioning the legality of the unit established on the orders of President Museveni.

Unfriendly call
In January last year, the Uganda Law Society called for the disbandment of the unit, saying its functions cannot be properly and lawfully executed by the ombudsman. They argue that Mr Kituuma-Magala being external counsel would not just assume any allegations of corruption relating to various suits he has been handling. 
In the letter, the lawyers further lecture the investigators on the process of requesting for certified documents from Mr Kituuma-Magala.

“We are of the view that in your attempt to request for the list of documents you ought to have cited the law under which you are compelling our client to bring the various documents but you omitted to do so. However, we are aware of the practice of the Uganda Police invoking section 27A as amended by Act 16 of 2006 to summon suspects or witnesses.
They advise the CID director to “personally take charge of this matter and seek legal advice before further action”. They also tell the CID director that Mr Kituuma-Magala will pursue contempt of court proceedings against any of his officers who “continue to act in mollified disobedience of the Constitutional Court” and that his “attempts to force and or compel our client to surrender documents and to record a statement are unconstitutional.”

CID director Tom Magambo is yet to pronounce himself in any of the letters seen by Monitor. On January 10, Mr Tweheyo on behalf of the CID director, once again, wrote to Mr Kituuma-Magala summoning him to report to the “investigations team at State House Anti-Corruption Unit” on January 17 for “interview and statement recording”.  In this letter Mr Tweheyo dropped the request for certified copies of a list of documents.
“As counsel, we are likely to appear to find out why they need our client so that we can advise him on how to handle the matter because their case is vague,” Peter Walubiri, the lead lawyer on Kituuma-Magala’s legal team said in an interview.
He said they have already furnished the DPP with information based on a leaked report that the investigators had submitted to the DPP.

Threatening media
In a WhatsApp message to Mr Magambo, Monitor presented the issues but he did not respond. This was followed up with a telephone call hours later to which he responded.  
“What does Monitor want with me?” Mr Magambo asked this journalist. “I don’t deal with the press, call [Fred] Enanga [the police spokesperson].
We asserted that the issues raised were directly about letters emanating from his office and that the lawyers had addressed him directly in some of the letters we had seen. He insisted that the reporter call Mr Enganga.  “But please don’t write things,” he said, adding, “I will look for you.”
Calls to Mr Enanga went unanswered.

In an interview, Ms Natasha Mariam Oduka, the spokesperson of the State House’s Anti-Corruption Unit, promised to revert.

“The officers on that matter are not in office so there is no comment as of now, but once they get back to me we will let you know,”  she said later.

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