LAWYERS VOW NEVER TO REPRESENT RWAKOJO’S EC AGAIN (HE DOESN’T WANT TO PAY OUR LEGAL FEES)
By Mulengera Reporters
A number of city lawyers and law firms are grumbling and have vowed never to accept to represent EC in future court matters. The lawyers are bitter that, despite having hundreds of billions allocated to them, the EC bosses don’t seem to be in a hurry to pay them for their services yet such work can be very demanding in terms of time, research and the human resources deployed to do a good job.
Mulengera News has had the opportunity to be confided into by a number of individual lawyers and some law firms who say they are still struggling to recover from the EC money for the legal representation they rendered to the electoral body in the aftermath of the 2016 elections. These including cases at LC5, LC3 and other levels. By their very nature elections are nothing but contradictions which explains why EC ranks among the most sued entities in Museveni’s Uganda. Some of these are election petitions relating to Parliamentary elections yet EC can’t have enough in-house lawyers to adequately represent it in the different courts scattered across Uganda.
There are many reasons why EC can’t do without private lawyers when it comes to defending itself against hundreds of litigation cases dissatisfied parties keep filing against it protesting the mal-conduct of electoral processes. “Those guys are extremely negligent and some of the cases filed against them are very hard to defend but we tried our best but to our dismay, they haven’t paid us up to now. The accounting officer keeps saying there is no money; wait for the next quarterly release. This is how it has been for the last three years since the 2016 election period ended,” said a top city lawyer adding that “Those days of [Badru] Kiggundu [as EC Chairman] were better because he was more approachable and more understanding than the current chairman Simon Byabakama who is naturally very indifferent and contemptuous of people like myself.”
Another lawyer said the best option would be challenging EC in court for breach of contract but many these days consider such a move as being futile because “with the current inefficiency and corruption, it will take forever for the case to be concluded by those courts.” The same lawyer fearfully adds that being a big entity with a lot of levers at its disposal, EC bosses have a vast network syndicated almost everywhere that can be used to isolate and frustrate law firms that make noise by going to court.
Knowledgeable insiders at EC headquarters along Jinja Road intimated to Mulengera News that the matter of the lawyers’ arrears has become so serious that some of the city power brokers that connected some of the best lawyers to the EC are no longer on talking terms with EC Accounting Officer Mr. Sam Rwakojo who they accuse of extreme indifference towards the plight of the lawyers and firms that worked for the EC. Mulengera News equally understands that even some of the lawyers that participated in defending the EC against the Amama Mbabazi Presidential petition in the Supreme Court have never been paid and there is a lot of resentment towards Rwakojo over that matter.
“It’s really strange because those lawyers did such a good job resulting into EC being exonerated on many allegations Mbabazi made except the issue of deliberately delaying to deliver polling materials for Kampala and Wakiso,” says a knowledgeable source remorsefully connected to the circumstances under which the EC managed to get the best law firms to defend it against JPAM. “In contrast, President Museveni who was the other respondent paid his private lawyers long time ago yet the EC bosses don’t seem to be in a hurry to pay firms that did their defense against so many electoral petitions across the country.”
Another source added: ‘We at least commend the EC bosses for not seeking kickbacks on the money but its simply too much. Some law firms are struggling to pay rent and salaries simply because the EC hasn’t paid them on time. Money will always be money however much its delayed but it’s very inconsiderate for one to hire a lawyer and not realize the need to pay them on time. Three years is simply too much yet we are still counting.”
In a related development, uneasiness continues simmering inside EC as the very lucrative 2021 election season draws near. Insiders say there is concern as to which department should play the leading role in coordinating the procurement of 2021 election-related service providers. There is for instance ambiguity over who (between Charles Mashate’s Voter Education & Training department and Mr. Jotham Taremwa Kaagizirwe’s Public Relations) should have the last word on the buying of media spaces for the civic education-related messages to be conveyed to the 40m Ugandans. This component has a huge budget with insides estimating that a significant fraction of the close to Shs1trn the EC will be having for 2021 going to voter education-related mobilization and sensitization activities.
Already some EC insiders who are increasingly becoming uncomfortable with President Museveni reelection chief promoter Balaam Barugahare playing any role in the pompous mobilization activities aimed at deepening public interest into the 2021 electioneering processes. A faction inside EC is said to be favoring Balaam (partisan as he is) cashing in and playing a significant role on the strength of his vast experience when it comes to the management of public events similar to what will be staged in the name of the EC across the country. The idea behind all these planned pompous ceremonies is to kill off voter apathy and create momentum in the public towards participation in the 2021 elections.
Still within the EC, there are some who are concerned as to why Wanyoto Godfrey, who heads the procurement department, isn’t being allowed chance to adequately be involved in making of the publicity-related decisions concerning the 2021 general elections. The proxy wars within the EC recently played out at Vision Group headquarters where the EC team travelled to meet top management whose members were told someone else (and not procurement head Wanyoto) would be in charge and having the last word on ad placements. This communication by the EC bosses greatly deflated insiders (commission earners) at Vision Group who were all along confident they would be the ones to have the juicy EC publicity account for 2021 that is expected to be anywhere north of Shs2.5bn for the Vision Group platforms alone. (For comments, reach us on 0200900416 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).