June 14, 2024

Manafwa Local Government vehicles to be auctioned over unpaid legal fees

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Manafwa district local government faces paralysis in service delivery following the impounding of a district vehicle attached to the education department over unpaid legal costs. The action stems from a court ruling in favour of the Chief Finance Officer, Michael Bichache, who sued the district for unfair interdiction by the then Chief Administrative Officer, Peter Watunya.

Manafwa deputy Resident District Commissioner, Kagenyi Lukka, says the district lacks funds to settle the debt.

The impounding was in execution of costs incurred in High Court Miscellaneous Cause No. 50 of 2022, where Michael Bichache sued Manafwa district for unfair dismissal.

In an ex parte judgment, the court ordered the district to reinstate Bichache as Chief Finance Officer and awarded him general damages and costs totalling UGX 17,860,000. Subsequently, the district reinstated Bichache but failed to pay the legal costs.

District Lacks Funds – dep. RDC

Lukka says the district currently lacks funds to settle the debt, adding that pleas for patience from Bichache or his lawyers have been unsuccessful.

“The ruling was made in August, two months into the new financial year, so we don’t have the funds,” said Lukka.

Lawyer frustrated by unfulfilled promises

Bichache’s lawyer, Allan Kikwe of Nandaah Wamukota & Company Advocates, said the district has in the past reneged on promises to pay.

“On three occasions, the district officials, together with the Attorney General, approached the court for adjournments to settle these costs, but unfortunately, they failed to do so on all three occasions,” said Kikwe.

Kikwe revealed that the costs have now increased by an estimated five to ten million shillings to cover bailiff’s expenses. He added that two vehicles have been impounded and are pending public auction to recover the UGX 17.86 million and an additional UGX 10 million within 15 days. The hunt for three more vehicles, including that of the Chief Administrative Officer, continues.

CAO pinned for negligence

The Deputy RDC attributed the challenge to negligence by the former Chief Administrative Officer, which resulted in the ex parte ruling, saying local governments should avoid a laissez-faire approach to handling administrative matters, which could lead to financial losses and hinder service delivery.

Cases of irregular dismissal among district local governments are common. In 2017, the court awarded damages and costs of 80 million shillings to Mbale district due to the irregular dismissal of the then district vice Chairperson, Wandwasi Robert.

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