The High court in Kampala has quashed minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Judith Nabakooba's decision to interdict the secretary to Uganda Land Commission (ULC), Barbarah Imaryo.
Imaryo was interdicted by Nabakooba to pave way for investigations into allegations of mismanagement of funds under the land fund following the directive of the Inspector General of Government (IGG) Beti Kamya issued on December 1, 2021.
Imaryo had been interdicted together with other officials of ULC including the chairperson Beatrice Byenkya Nyakaisiki following a report by the Auditor General. The report among other things; indicated that ULC did not have a land inventory and database for all government land and properties under its jurisdiction and that there was a payment of Shs 10.6 billion to some claimants without authorization among other irregularities.
“You are, therefore, directed/ordered, as the supervising minister, to interdict or cause the interdiction of Ms Barbarah Imaryo from her duties as secretary of Uganda Land Commission with immediate effect,” read the letter that Nabakooba acted on to make her December 7, 2021 decision.
Nabakooba consequently directed that Imaryo should stay away from the office and reinstated Daniel Mugulusi as the accounting officer of ULC with orders that her directive was to remain like that unless the president of Uganda advises otherwise.
Dissatisfied with the minister's decision, Imaryo petitioned court, saying Nabakooba had no jurisdiction to order her out of office and stop her from transacting any office business on behalf of the Uganda Land Commission.
According to Imaryo, the power to discipline a person of her rank lies with the president who is the appointing authority. In response the Attorney General while relying on an affidavit of Vincent B Byendaimira, the commissioner physical planning in the ministry of Lands asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the minister neither acted irrational nor illegally as alleged by Imaryo.
Government argued that the interdiction is an administrative measure aimed at ensuring that Imaryo does not perform her duties so that investigations can be conducted without the possibility of her interfering with them until they are concluded.
However, in a decision issued on Monday, High court judge Musa Ssekaana agreed with Imaryo and quashed her interdiction saying it was illegal. According to Ssekaana, both the IGG and minister of Lands have no powers to interdict and terminate Imaryo's services from the commission.
"In the present case, the applicant is challenging the decision of the minister of Lands Housing and Urban Development to interdict her because she is not vested with such power. her actions were indeed illegal and contrary to the constitutional and other laws governing the appointment of the applicant," says Ssekaana.
Quoting Section 24 of the Interpretation Act, Ssekaana said the power conferred to the appointing authority is the same person with powers to remove, suspend, reappoint and reinstate any person appointed in line with those powers.
"It is very true that the office of the Inspector General of Government has power to make recommendations to decision-makers or responsible officers, such recommendations are not self-executing and must be acted upon in accordance with the existing legal framework. The IGG cannot direct a minister to break the law, and act appropriately. The letter from the Inspector General of Government only gave the minster of Lands, Housing and Urban Development what action to take," added Ssekaana.
He has accordingly ordered the Attorney General who was listed as the respondent to pay costs to Imaryo. Last year on December 29, Ssekaana issued a temporary injunction halting the interdiction of Imaryo's boss Byenkya until her case challenging the legality of her interdiction is determined.
Byenkya has since indicated that there are some political untouchables who want her out of office because they have reportedly grabbed public land and fear being exposed.