KAMPALA — A section of youths under the Poor Youth Network has petitioned President Museveni, demanding immediate action over the Central Bank’s excessive legal fees expenditure in its battle over Crane Bank Ltd (in receivership) and Meera Investments Ltd of city tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia.
The petition also copied to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Speaker of Parliament, the Prime Minister and the Auditor General among others was presented through the umbrella; Uganda Poor Youth Movement last week.
The youth movement wants the president to reign in the Bank of Uganda board to stop the appeal and settle the case out of court to save time and costs.
Mr. Ruparelia has so far beaten the Central Bank both in the High Court and Court of Appeal, in which a panel of three judges on June 23, 2020, upheld the judgment of Commercial Court in an application filed by BoU seeking a refund of UGX 397 billion from Mr. Ruparelia which he allegedly pulled out from Crane Bank.
Justice David Wangutusi of Commercial Court in August 2019 dismissed the case brought by BoU against Mr. Ruparelia and his Meera Investments Ltd.
But in a June 30 statement, the BoU Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile announced the Central Bank would appeal the cession in the country’s highest court, insisting that receivership does not take away the corporate personality of a company which includes the right to trace and recover assets and the right to sue for those assets.
The Poor Youth Network takes exception to the BoU reasons, saying that the leadership at the Central Bank is insensitive because they are spending taxpayers’ cash.
“The greed in the BOU Legal Department misled the Board to authorise an Appeal which was filed to the Court of Appeal … this appeal was dismissed and the costs awarded to Meera Investments Ltd and Sudhir Ruparelia yet again. The total taxed bill is yet to be filed which according to legal experts could be anything in the region of [UGX] 150bn which will be visited on the taxpayers. The BoU does not have its own money to pay those costs and will have to seek for recapitalisation or a refund from the government after payment,” their petition to the President reads.
Zahid Ssempala, the group’s National spokesperson said that President Museveni needed to recognise that as the government suffers massive revenue shortage to finance this 2020/21 budget, court awards in the case will further aggravate the suffering.
In the same letter, the group also protested Bank of Uganda’s endless litigation— and asked the president in the petition to rein in the Central Bank.
“Uganda has bled enough, let these costs not be multiplied in the Supreme Court not to forget the interest and damages the bank will continue to incur, at the end of this all it’s we the taxpayers to suffer. Let BoU Board meet and consider settling this matter given that out court and Alternative Dispute Resolutions are valid methods of settling cases,” the group wrote, adding that “Ugandans have signed this petition to save their taxes and bring BoU to book this one time”.
In 2018, a Parliamentary committee overseeing statutory enterprises raised concern over high legal bills incurred by the Central Bank.
The then committee chair, MP Abdu Katuntu admonished Bank of Uganda officials for contracting private legal firms at exorbitant costs.