The High Court in Kampala has ruled that the interdiction of Makerere University Deputy Academic Registrar Margaret Etuusa was illegal and ordered the public university to pay her Shs350 million as compensation and damages.
Makerere University has also been ordered to reinstate Ms Etuusa in her position, with the court faulting the institution for contempt of lawful orders after it refused to reinstate her in office even when she had secured a court order.
Also penalised is Makerere University Head of Convocation Dr Tanga Odoi who was ordered to pay a fine of Shs20m to the court for instituting a separate police investigation into Ms Etuusa despite an existing court directive suspending the same.
Etuusa was interdicted on January 11 2018 over corruption related charges. She was arraigned before the Anti-corruption Court on four counts of abuse of office relating to flouting procurement laws, regulations and procedures. The charges stem from the irregular procurement of companies to provide services during the 67th Graduation Ceremony in February 2017.
Etuusa secured a High court order reinstating it her into office and restraining the university from taking any action against her. However, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe has asked her to vacate office immediately following advice from the Solicitor General.
But in a ruling issued on Wednesday, June 10, 2020, Justice Lydia Mugambe said the suspension was irregular as she was not given chance to defend herself before the university disciplinary tribunal.
“There is also no demonstration that the Applicant properly appeared before any authority where she competently presented her defence and was properly represented before the suspension decision or the decision to refer her for disciplinary action. The right to be heard is so central to justice,” Justice Mugambe said.
According to the judge, the University Secretary, Mr Alfred Masikye Noah, and the head of convocation, Dr Tanga Odoi, orchestrated a biased expulsion of Ms Etuusa without following the due process.
“It appears that the fourth Respondent (Dr Tanga) was the invisible hand that orchestrated the accusations against the Applicant, which were followed through by the secretary (Dr Masikye), the third Respondent’s actions and finally the second Respondent (Dr Ernest Okello Ogwanga)’s suspension letter. It is hard for me to consider therefore that the suspension and disciplinary action against the Applicant in this case was done fairly, irrationally and objectively. Rather, I am inclined to consider and I am convinced that it was a malicious scheme orchestrated by the fourth Respondent. I cannot therefore consider that it was done in good faith,” Justuce Mugambe ruled.
“I also wish to point out that there is exhibited, a trend of public officers in the first Respondent institution using their public offices recklessly and maliciously as if they are managing business in backyards in their homesteads with total disregard to established principles of law and procedure. This conduct at the first Respondent must be stopped in its tracks,” she added.