KAMPALA – The move by Mr Pius Bigirimana not to effect increment of allowances of judicial officers has taken a new twist after the latter asked the High Court to scrap off the position of the permanent secretary from the Judiciary.
In a lawsuit filed before court on Monday, October 21, the judicial officers under their umbrella body, the Uganda Judicial Officers Association (UJOA), said that the Judiciary is not a ministry or a government department to have a permanent secretary as per section 10 of the Public Service Act and Article 174 of the Constitution and therefore Mr Bigirimana should not be holding the office.
“A declaration that the appointment and transfer of the respondent’s officer (Mr Bigirimana) as the permanent secretary to the Judiciary by His Excellency the President who is also represented by the respondent, to implement policies of government as illegal, ultra vires and irrational and is jeopardizing the independence of the Judiciary as the Judiciary is neither a department of government nor a ministry,” the court documents read in part.
The fallout between UJOA and Mr Bigirimana emanates from the latter’s failure to increase their allowances as per the government directive beginning this financial year. When government increased the salaries of judicial officers by almost 100 percent, their monthly allowances were automatically increased to that effect. However, Mr Bigirimana in August wrote an internal memo to the judicial officers, saying the increment in their allowances was done in error.
“I have noted that there has been an error in the monthly judicial allowance paid to the lower Bench, which has been inconsistent with the figures approved by Cabinet as per Cabinet Extract No. 19. The error was due to the automatic increase of the judicial officers’ allowance on the Integrated Personal and Payroll System by the ministry of public service every time there is salary enhancement for the lower Bench,” Mr Bigirimana wrote to the judicial officers on August 27.
“The purpose of this memo therefore, is to correct the error and clarify that the monthly salary and judicial allowance entitlement are not one and the same. While the salary may increase over time, this allowance is fixed as approved by cabinet,” Mr Bigirimana further wrote.
The judicial officers protested this move to have their increased allowances slashed, a battle that has now ended up in court.
“There is no lawful order or directive of any person that can be issued to alter or vary any allowances or salaries of judicial officers to their disadvantage,” Ms Stella Gloria Atim, the vice president of UJOA stated in her affidavit to support the law suit.