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Government Violated Prosecutors' Salary Expectations in Abuse of Authority -Court Declares

In his ruling dated 18th December 2020 delivered by mail, Justice Ssekaana found that the applicants had a legitimate expectation that government would deliver on the commitment. But, he declined to issue an Order of Mandamus saying, enforcement of the commitment cannot be through issuance of the order.
Justice Musa Ssekaana


High Court in Kampala has declared that the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs violated expectations of prosecutors to have their salaries and other benefits increased.

The ruling by Justice Musa Ssekaana is a result of a 2018 court case filed by prosecutors organized under Uganda Association of Prosecutors and their president Batson Baguma against government and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

The applicants accused government of failure to deliver on the commitments reached in a 2017 meeting where the prosecutors complained of low wages compared to their counterparts with similar qualifications in other government agencies like the Office of the Inspector General of Government, Uganda Registration Services Bureau, Uganda Law Reform Commission and Kampala Capital City Authority.

At the meeting, government was represented by the then Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Hon Kahinda Otafiire who committed to waive tax on salaries of prosecutors and provide professional and responsibility allowances to the staff of the office of Directorate of Public Prosecution- ODPP in the subsequent financial year.

Government further committed to fast track the ODPP Bill, elevate the salaries of prosecutors to a level equivalent to salaries of employees in the Uganda Registration Services Bureau and facilitate the ODPP to better carry out its functions. 

This commitment made on 11th July 2017 was to be implemented within 90 days. But it never was. The applicants hence ran to court seeking an order of Mandamus compelling the government or any responsible government body to enforce it.

In defense, government argued that the salaries of the applicants were increased in financial year 2018/2019 and that it shall continuously increase the salaries and improve conditions of service of the applicants through budgetary allocations as available funds permit.

In his ruling dated 18th December 2020 delivered by mail, Justice Ssekaana found that the applicants had a legitimate expectation that government would deliver on the commitment. But he declined to issue an Order of Mandamus saying, enforcement of the commitment cannot be through issuance of the order. 

He explained that enforcing a commitment is not a statutory duty given under any legislation but rather it is an undertaking to ensure that the Government improves the welfare of the prosecutors.

He however noted that “the failure to act within a reasonable time even after efforts to have the commitment enforced is equally an abuse of authority or illegal."

He added that "the doctrine of legitimate expectation imposes in a sense, a duty on the public authority to act fairly by keeping their promises and commitments”.

The justice thus made a declaration that the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs (government’s representative at the 2017 meeting) is in violation of the applicants’ legitimate expectation on the commitments and should ensure that the expectation of the prosecutors isn’t frustrated. He says court will ensure that the administration stick to their commitment.

All parties shall meet their costs.