Court halts reinstatement of Makerere University Secretary

The High Court in Kampala recently stayed the reinstatement of Dr. Charles Barugahare Makerere University’s Secretary who was last month sent on compulsory leave after he was implicated in the gowns crisis that hit the University in January.

Justice Michael Elubu directed that the status quo as it stands on July 13, 2020 be maintained and that the parties proceed to have the hearing of the main suit filed by Barugahare against Makerere University, Professor Barnabas Nawangwe who is the Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Yusuf Kiranda the acting University Secretary and Attorney General.

In his affidavit filed in court, Barugahare wanted the court to issue an order of injunction restraining Makerere University or its agents from implementing a decision contained in a letter dated June 8, 2020 from the Secretary to the Treasury appointing Kiranda the Accounting Officer of the University until the disposal of the judicial review.

Barugahare also wanted Courts to issue an order of injunction restraining Makerere University from continuing to impose disciplinary measures or forcing him to go on compulsory leave as threatened by Prof. Nawangwe in a letter dated June 29, or removing him from his job as University Accounting Officer until the disposal of the main suit.

On June 29, Nawangwe sent Barugahare on compulsory leave to allow an independent investigation in his conduct of University affairs.

In his letter, Nawangwe among others sited the investigation into the gown issue found that the accounting officer did not properly supervise the process of procurement leading to several anomalies during the bidding process, award and management of the contract.

Nawangwe also stated that the investigations found that the accounting officer did not seek the Solicitor General’s approval of the draft contract document in contravention of Regulation 1(1) of the PPDA (contracts) regulations, 2014 and Statutory Instrument No. 97 of 2014.

In his response to Barugahare’s affidavit, Nawangwe noted that Barugahare, “has never been removed from his employment with Makerere University as is falsely contended in the application and affidavit in support of his case. Barugahare is the substantive University Secretary of the University and Kiranda was only appointed as University Secretary in an acting capacity.”

He also noted that, by letter dated June 29th, he sent Barugahare on compulsory leave for a period of three 3 months from July 01, with full salary pursuant to the Universities Human Resources Manual. “By reason thereof. Nawangwe also noted that Barugahare will not suffer any monetary loss attributable as a result of being sent on leave.

Nawangwe defended his decision to send Barugahare on leave noting that, “the decision to send the Barugahare on compulsory leave was taken after a number of issues requiring my action were brought to my attention by inter alia the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority and the University Council concerning his performance of his duties as University Secretary of Makerere University.”

He noted that he had sought a response from Barugahare on the said matters prior to sending him on compulsory leave.

“Barugahare notified me that since he was then on study leave, he required more time to respond to the said matters.

I further invited Barugahare to a meeting at the University on June 26, to discuss the resumption of his duties after expiry of his study leave in light of the matters raised regarding the performance of his duties. Barugahare did not turn up for the said meeting and attempts to reach him on the phone to find out the reason for his non-attendance were futile as he did not answer the calls,” Nawangwe stated.

He also noted that Barugahare had not contacted him to furnish a response to the matters earlier brought to his attention or to explain his failure to attend the scheduled meeting.

“At no time did the Barugahare notify me that he was unable to attend the said meeting by reason of bereavement”.

He also defended the appointment of Kiranda as acting US noting that, he had since July 1, 2019 been acting as the University Accounting Officer for the period that Barugahare was on a study leave. Nawangwe also stated that he was aware that Muhakanizi had re-appointed Kiranda as Makerere Universities Accounting Officer for the 2020/2021 financial year and that he has since July 01 2019 dutifully performed the said role.

Nawangwe in his Defence also stated that Barugahare had falsely stated in his application before court that he had been removed from office and or that he was unlawfully sent on compulsory leave in contravention of the Universities and other Tertiary Institutions Act 2011, Employment Act, 2006 and the rules of natural justice.

He stated that Barugahare could only be removed from office by the Makerere University Council on the recommendation of its Appointment Board.

Nawangwe also stated that Barugahare had falsely stated in his application before court that he had unlawfully established a management committee to investigate him.

“The role of committee that I appointed is purely advisory in nature; to conduct a free inquiry into the allegations raised against Barugahare for purposes of advising me on whether the said allegations amount to reasonable cause for instituting disciplinary proceedings against him. The said committee has not been vested with any powers to discipline the Barugahare or to remove him from his employment,” the Vice Chancellor stated.

He also stated that the decision to send Barugahare on leave was taken in view of the government’s COVID-19 directive to maintain a lean workforce at the workplace, and to enable him to prepare a detailed response to the said allegations which he was unable to provide by reason of being on study leave during the time when the said allegations were brought to his attention. 

He said that Barugahare will also have enough time to interface with the said committee.

“I further know that the Applicant will be availed the opportunity by the said committee to furnish his response to the said allegations and he will resume his duties as University Secretary if no reasonable cause for instituting disciplinary proceedings against him, are established.”

Source: New Vision