A supreme Court Judge Lady Justice Lillian Tibatemwa- Ekirikubinza has filed an application in the High Court (Civil Division) seeking a refund of shs 600,000 which she claims facilitated her fuel from Kampala to Entebbe Airport.
In an application number 211 of 2020, Justice Tibatemwa is suing the Attorney General along with Secretary to the Judiciary Pius Bigirimana and she is represented by famous Makerere University law don John Barya.
“As you are aware, the refunds she is asking for are her entitlement. We therefore accordingly demand that you cause to be effected the following monies to be refunded to her as matter of urgency; Fuel allowance Kampala to Entebbe- shs. 600,000,” reads part of the letter which lawyer Barya first wrote to Mr Bigirimana before instituting a legal suit against him.
On May 14, 2018, the Chief Justice (then) Bart Katureebe wrote a letter to Justice Tibatemwa responding to her earlier request of May 8 in which she sought permission to attend to short courses in America and South Africa.
The Chief Justice in his letter categorically emphasized that Tibatemwa notified him that her participation was fully facilitated by United High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“I note that your participation in those courses is fully sponsored by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,” Mr Katureebe said, according to the correspondences which this website accessed from Court.
Therefore, Katureebe well knowing the judge had been sponsored allowed her permission to travel.
“I therefore give you permission to be away from station during the period 16th June to 28 June 2018,” reads Katureebe’s letter.
Upon return, the Lady Justice approached the Secretary to the Judiciary (then) Kivumbi Kagole to effect a refund since she hadn’t obtained financial assistance from her host as earlier communicated to the Chief Justice.
And PS Kivumbi then first gave her partial refund of shs. 10,000,000 in 2018.
She then demanded $7361 an equivalent of shs 27,603,705 plus shs 600,000 fuel allowance which used from Kampala to Entebbe Airport.
However, PS Kivumbi left office before he could complete the payment.
Kivumbi was interdicted from office following multiple cases of mismanagement of Judiciary funds.
For instance, the decision he made to refund Justice Tibatemwa on the cost of tax payer’s money raises numerous audit queries.
President Museveni appointed Pius Bigirmana as new PS to the Judiciary on July 30, and after a month, Justice Tibatemwa had started engaging the ‘no nonsense’ PS about her payment.
A source said that Bigirimana, avoiding audit queries asked the judge to avail documents which entitled her for a refund.
“She kept referring to phone conversations she had with Bigirimana’s predecessor, which he rejected as not substantial enough to commit public funds towards an unauthorized private errand by her Lordship Tibatemwa,” a source said.
TrumpetNews understands that at this point, Tibatemwa sought legal services of her longtime comrade John Barya who wrote to Mr Bigirimana threatening to seek legal redress should he fail to pay the money.
“We have further have instructions that should you fail or neglect to heed to this communication, our instructions are to take legal action against you and the Attorney General as representatives of the Judiciary in this matter,” reads Barya’s letter to Bigirimana.
Wasting Taxpayer’s Money
A resolute Bigirimana warned that refunding the money was a total waste of taxpayers money since the Judge had been executing “her private errands.”
The PS wrote to Solicitor General detailing six points why he would never authorize the payment to Tibatemwa.
Among them include; he said the travel by the learned justice happened without knowledge of the counting officer, at no moment did the Judiciary approve to any element of financial implication that Tibatemwa’s travel overseas would have a budget, the travels (courses) were never sanctioned by government and there was no formal budgeting, expenditure and accountability process of the judiciary to bring her travel in conforming with due process.
Bigirimana therefore forwarded Tibatemwa’s matter to the Solicitor General for further management.
Realizing Mr Bigirimana wasn’t ready to risk taxpayers money, Tibatemwa’s lawyers filed a civil application at the High Court on August 12, 2020.
In her affidavit, Justice Tibatemwa says that at the end of April, 2018 she was invited by the National Judicial College in USA to attend two courses to wit.
But what she doesn’t answer is who sent her to USA.
She further claims that the previous PS Kivumbi advised her to use her personal money and would be refunded on return.
But the her Lordship Tibatemwa has no written document to that effect and a whole judge hinging on a phone conversation as evidence to demand refund raises numerous questions.
She acknowledges in her affidavit receiving of shs 10,000,000 from Mr Kivumbi and 14,469,898 October 24, 2018 and January 24, 2019.
But this payment however raises audit queries to both Kivumbi and the Lady Justice, and a follow up could land Kivumbi in more trouble since he was already kicked out of office on grounds of mismanaging Judiciary funds.
An investigation by TrumpetNews has revealed that a couple of judges in Uganda had made it a habit to initiate foreign trips to earn money as per-diem and travel facilitation leaving heaps of files on their desks resulting into case backlog.
For example, before COVID-19 broke out, 14 judges were scheduled to travel to Switzerland.
TrumpetNews understands that these judges had been collaborating with academic institutions, human rights groups and judicial entities abroad to initiate travel invites.