The court of Appeal last week upheld a High court judge's ruling that former Internal Security Organisation (ISO) employees whose contracts were terminated unlawfully should be paid Shs 100 billion.
The court also quashed a Memorandum of Understanding, signed by some leaders of the former ISO workers and government, reducing the amount to Shs 39 billion.
ISO staff sued government in the early 2000s and in May 2005 the High court ordered government to pay them Shs 72 billion (the money has now risen to Shs 100 billion when you factor in accumulated interest).
However, after the high court ruling, some leaders of the complainants reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with government to be paid Shs 39 billion instead. They formed a company called UVETISO on whose account government first deposited Shs 10 billion.
Before the balance (Shs 29 billion) could be paid, other former ISO staff turned against their leaders and distanced themselves from the MoU.
Led by one Joseph Wawomola, the applicants contested the reduction of their retirement benefits from Shs 72 billion to Shs 39 billion.
In his affidavit in support of the suit, Wawomola said years after the High court awarded them Shs 72 billion, they discovered that their leaders, in connivance with Matovu and Company Advocates, and the attorney general, had entered a consent order reducing the sum.
So, in their application in the Court of Appeal, argued by Muwema and Company Advocates, they sought to contest the consent order, arguing that it was irregular and unlawful in as far as it purported to nullify or vary the terms of the original award.
In a ruling delivered by Justice Remmy Kasule on June 12, court agreed with the applicants. Kasule ruled that the MoU cannot vary the orders of court and emphasized that the High court ruling stands.
Kasule ruled: "Subject to the appeal, the terms of that judgment ought to remain unvaried. The attorney general is duty-bound to respect and comply with its terms to the letter. In case of uncertainty as regards any aspect or terms of that judgment, then resort must be made to the court that issued the decree for its actions to remove the uncertainty and to approve and supervise any changes if any".
Kasule ordered the parties to the suit to bear their own costs. Roberts Friday Kagoro from Muwema and Advocates, who represented Wawomola and the other aggrieved ISO staff, was elated by the ruling. He told The Observer that it would have huge implication on the way government has been handling payment of court damages.
"It is a victory for justice. But what it also means is that once there is a ruling that requires government to pay money to people, the attorney general cannot negotiate the figure downwards like he has been doing. He must comply with the court ruling," Kagoro said.