13 January 2013

Uganda: 19 Lawyers Targeted By New LDC Investigation

Errant LDC employees shuffled

A new probe to review the findings and recommendations of a forensic audit into exam malpractices at Law Development Centre (LDC) will now focus on 19 students, after four additions to the 15, whose diplomas in legal practice could be cancelled.

The audit, which covers exams written between 2004 and 2011, has queried among others, the final scores of opposition politicians Fred Mukasa Mbidde and Michael Mabikke.

The latest additions on the list of queried marks include; Joseph Lubega (sat exams in 2007/8 and graduated in 2010) and Hope Mutoni Rukundo (sat exams in 2009/10 and graduated in 2011). These had unsigned verification reports on the basis of which their marks were adjusted.

The other two are; Isaac Kimaze Semakadde, who completed the Bar course at LDC in the academic year 2007/2008 and graduated on July 31, 2009 but later allegedly, sat pre-entry exams for Hamis Kiggundu in August 2011. Mbidde and Mabikke are now seeking legal intervention to block discussion on the audit report.

However, the new probe led by Justice Augustine Kania (a retired High Court Judge), has received its terms of reference to guide its work in scrutinizing exam malpractices by LDC graduates. Other members of the probe include; Lady Justice Margaret Sekaggya, the UN special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Roseline Karugonjo Segawa, the director of Monitoring and Inspection with the Uganda Human Rights Commission and Prof Frederick Jjuuko of Makerere University's school of Law.

LDC spokesperson Hamis Lukyamuzi revealed that the probe team will be meeting tomorrow to decide on their terms of operation; including whether to conduct hearings in public or in camera. Lukyamuzi explained that the probe team has powers to summon graduates, unlike the audit probe.

Terms of reference

The probe will also look into the case of a bar course graduate who apparently gained admission to the bar course fraudulently using a 'mercenary' lawyer to sit the LDC pre-entry examinations. Besides these 19 students, the probe is also "to carry out any other task incidental to and necessary for executing these terms of reference" and make appropriate recommendations for action by the Management committee.

Mercenary advocate

The audit report retrieved Semakadde's examination scripts at LDC and those of Kiggundu. "On the face of the scripts, the handwriting on the pre-entry scripts allegedly for Hamis (written by Semakadde) appears very similar to that on Semakadde's examination scripts," reads the report that has Semakadde and Kiggundu's answer sheets as an annexure to the report.

This scenario, the report says "raises questions about invigilation of these examinations." It concludes that either the invigilators don't know what they are paid to do or there could "have been connivance with the in-charge of the pre-entry examinations to ensure that Semakadde is not caught."

The report wants Semakadde punished for impersonation and holding out as Hamis Kiggundu. It also says that Kiggundu's admission to the Bar course should be considered a nullity and calls for further investigations for possible connivance with invigilators.

The report also notes that the criteria for selecting invigilators for exams is wanting, "High school teachers are handpicked to invigilate a lawyers' examination ... no wonder cases like that of Hamis Kiggundu went unnoticed."

LDC sackings and transfers

Meanwhile, the LDC management has taken administrative action on two of the three LDC staff named in the audit report. Expedito Kkaaya was last week relieved of his duties as the Head of the Bar course examination and replaced by Stephen Mubiru. However, Kkaaya retains his job as a lecturer, while Teopista Nalule, a stenographer, was also transferred to the Library department.

Kkaaya was accused of impersonation and failure to investigate some alleged complaints of illegal change of marks forwarded to him. The report implicated Nalule in the illegal transportation of scripts from external examiners to the bar course and compiled results for proof reading by the Head Bar course.

"It is highly plausible that some scripts or mark sheets were tampered with at this stage of transportation and more at compilation," reads the audit report. Lukyamuzi and Nalule were also singled out for illegally moving scripts to the external examiners and back to the Bar course department where alteration of marks allegedly took place.

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