Members of Parliament on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee have scheduled a meeting with the Ministry of Finance on the issue of settling court awards.
The legislators had suggested to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to consider external funding to offset the court awards that have continued to accumulate at a high interest rate.
While responding to the committee on Tuesday, Attorney General Peter Nyombi said that the mandate to borrow lies with the finance ministry and it is beyond Ministry of Justice. He however agreed that the money disbursed to the ministry each financial year is very little yet government owes claimants a lot of money dating back to 1980.
He said that the pace is so slow that some claimants have died claiming the money giving an example of Kimbowa Contractors, whose land was taken over and the owner died recently after government had paid him only 100 million out of the two billion shillings claim.
The MPs were dissatisfied with the rate at which government is moving to clear court awards and committee chairman Stephen Tashobya told Nyombi that government isn’t taking the matter serious and that’s why there is no progress.
The Director Civil Litigation in the ministry of Justice, Cheborion Barishaki, said that they have engaged the ministry of finance on the issue and were given 50 billion shillings in the last financial year.
The 50 billion, Bashiraki said, was to settle the awards on which a court order for payment was issued.
But MPs said this has become a continuous song that government seems to be paying less attention to. Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu said that when the issue was discussed last year, the ministry was supposed to work with cabinet on a permanent solution to the problem.
Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba wondered why the ministry can get billions of shillings to pay in compensations but have failed to clear court awards some of which go more than 20 years back.
West Budama North MP Fox Odoi also noted that the fact that the ministry can get 50 billion shillings in one financial year to clear the urgent awards shows that money is not the problem but poor prioritization.
Tashobya also said that it is lack of commitment on the part of government saying that parliament has sat with the two ministries and worked out a timeframe in which these awards can be cleared but it wasn’t seen through.
Bashariki said that government has got the will to clear the court awards but there is a back log which cannot be cleared at ago and it is being cleared in installments which he says need to be increased.
Tashobya said that the installments being disbursed currently are too insignificant and added that the MPs will raise the matter again when they meet the finance ministry officials today.
The committee said that if the two ministries do not come up with a way of clearing the awards the issue will be taken to the floor of parliament to be debated and addressed.