14 February 2013

Uganda: Mbidde, Mabikke Fail to Stop LDC Probe

Politicians Fred Mukasa Mbidde, and Michael Mabikke who are also enrolled advocates of the High Court have lost a bid to stop a probe by the Law Development Centre (LDC) that is querying their diplomas in legal practice obtained in the period between 2004 and 2011.

The duo had in January, petitioned the court seeking a declaratory judgment that the report of the Forensic Audit of the Bar Course from 2004 to 2011, be quashed on grounds that the inquiry committee was not duly instituted. It is a pre-requisite for one to practice law only if a person has obtained a diploma in legal practice.

But in the ruling of Justice Vincent Zehurikize, delivered by the civil division court registrar Eudes Keitirima, he stated that the institution has the mandate to perform its duty enshrined in public trust.

"I do not find any basis for an order prohibiting the establishment of any investigations or inquiry into specific cases dug out by the audit committee. In the same vein, the prayers to quash the report and a declaration that it be expunged from the records of the LDC are rejected," Zehurikize ruled.

The ruling was delivered in the presence of the duo's lawyer Jotham Mugarura, and LDC lawyer Ateenyi Tibaijuka. Mabikke was present while Mbidde (East African Legislative Assembly MP) was absent.

However, the judge agreed with the duo, and disqualified the inquiry committee led by the retired judge Augustine Kania, noting that it was not properly constituted in accordance with Section 16 of the LDC Act.

Zehurikize said the Kania committee is not competent to discharge the task, since it does not contain members of the management committee, which is a pre-requisite. Prior, LDC had argued that it chose prominent citizens of impeccable record, and not members of the management committee, since there would be conflict of interest.

Following reports of examination malpractice at LDC, a forensic audit probe committee was set up to investigate purported illegalities committed between 2004 and 2011.The duo was among the 15 former students whose papers were scrutinized.

Records indicated that Mbidde's criminal law marks were altered. The cited examination malpractices were tampering of the marks on the mark sheets by way of white washing them. Also under the spotlight were variance between marks recorded on the mark sheet and those presented to the board of examiners.

Also in his ruling, the judge noted that LDC is entitled to carry out a probe into its internal affairs as a soul searching exercise in a bid to ascertain the veracity of the allegations.

Speaking outside court shortly after delivery of the ruling, Mabikke vowed to battle on in court in the event that another committee is instituted.

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