Uganda: Extra Allowances for Judicial Officers Illegal - Bigirimana

12 December 2019

The Permanent Secretary to the Judiciary, Mr Pius Bigirimana, has defended his directive that stopped the extra allowances for judicial officers' saying they were erroneously given.

Mr Bigirimana was defending himself in a case in which an advocate and concerned citizen, Hassan Male Mabirizi, dragged him to court for allegedly reducing the allowances of judicial officers which had already been approved by Cabinet.

However, in his written defence, Mr Bigirimana explained that as the permanent secretary, he is responsible for the implementation of government policies, proper expenditure of public funds, organisation and general administration of the Judiciary, among others.

"I am aware that Cabinet on January 22, 2014, approved fixed amounts of allowance to be paid to registrars and magistrates as indicated in the Cabinet Extract. However, upon assumption of duty, I noted an error in the monthly judicial allowance paid to the lower bench which had inconsistent figures approved by the Cabinet," he said.

Mr Bigirimana added: "The said error arose due to a wrong configuration of the allowance on the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System by the Ministry of Public Service which made allowance a percentage of salary."

Mr Bigirimana also said every time there was salary enhancement for the judicial officers, their allowances would also automatically increase rates over and above what was approved by Cabinet.

He further explained that monthly salary and judicial allowance entitlement are not one and the same as the two are tagged to different budget lines as salary may increase over time while allowance is fixed as approved by Cabinet.

Taking the decision

"In view of the roles and responsibilities given upon me as permanent secretary, it was legal, procedurally proper, reasonable and rational for me to point out the said error and to communicate to the concerned judicial officers clarifying the monthly salary and judicial allowance entitlements for the judicial officers in my internal memo dated August 27, 2019," Mr Bigirimana said.

In his lawsuit before the High Court, Mr Mabirizi said the permanent secretary has no powers to alter a Cabinet decision which set the consolidated judicial allowance per month at a rate of 30 per cent of the monthly salary without Cabinet sitting.

He said the internal memo undermines the independence of the judiciary and specifically the lower bench officers who are at the grassroots of adjudicating disputes in the societies.

Mr Mabirizi now wants the High Court to quash this memo, prohibiting the Chief Justice and the Principal Judge from acting on the same and compel Public Service to pay the affected judicial officers their full salaries and allowances.

The hearing of the case has been adjourned to next year on March 23.

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