UNRA Spent UGX 15.5bn On Law firms in Three Years

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Abdu Katuntu, the COSASE chairperson directed a team of UNRA officials led by their Executive Director, Allen Kagina to submit detailed information on transactions and instructions to private law firms.

Uganda National Roads Authority-UNRA spent Shillings 15.5 billion on law firms in the last three years, Uganda Radio Network-URN has learnt. The payments were made between the 2012 to 2015 financial year to sixteen law firms in terms of professional fees for defending the Authority in a number of court cases.

Some of the documents seen by URN also show over payment by UNRA to some of the law firms contrary to the invoiced amounts. Some of the law firms that benefited from the payments are Sebalu & Lule Advocates, Kalenge, Bwanika Ssawa Advocates, Kateera & Kagumire Advocates, Ligomarc Advocates, Kampala Associated Advocates, Synergy Solicitors & Advocates (ENS AFRICA), Bitangaro & Co Advocates, KAM Advocates & Solicitors and others.

Others include Kasekende Kyeyune & Lutaaya Advocates, Kiwanuka & Karugire Advocates, Tibeingana & Co Advocates, Karuhanga Tabaro Associates, Tusasirwe & Co Advocates, The Marble Law firm, Agaba Muhairwe & Co Advocates and EnsAfrica Advocates. One of the law firms that were overpaid according to the documents is Sebalu & Lule Advocates, which received Shillings 487 million in 2012 contrary to the invoiced Shillings 400 million.
The money was paid in respect of a case between Abaker Otim & 276 others Vs UNRA & 2 others in a High Court Civil Suit 55 of 2012. Kampala Associated Advocates also received Shillings 631.6 million from UNRA instead of Shillings 35.4million Shillings as invoiced by the law firm in case between Byaruhanga Daniel Vs Eng James Byandala, Angella Kiryabwire & UNRA.  
In his 2015 audit report, the Auditor General John Muwanga cited inappropriate expenditure on law firms. He noted that Shillings 254 million was paid to a law firm as legal fees for a case in, which a developer sued UNRA for failure to give him final advice on whether to halt or continue building a commercial house on plot No 587, Block 438 at Nkumba due to the on-going road works.

The developer had inquired from UNRA whether his commercial building would be affected by the road construction but UNRA did not respond prompting him sue the Authority. The Auditor General notes that this expenditure could have been avoided if UNRA had given appropriate advice and acted promptly. 

As a result, the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) has launched investigations into the payments made to the law firms. Abdu Katuntu, the COSASE chairperson directed a team of UNRA officials led by their Executive Director, Allen Kagina to submit detailed information on transactions and instructions to private law firms, saying that they want to ensure that there was no money trafficking through law firms.
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Kagina and her team were appearing before the committee today to answer audit queries by the Auditor General from the 2012 to 2015 financial years.  She was accompanied by the Authority Legal Director, Mary Kuteesa Kamuli, Director Procurement, Mathias Ofumbi, Director Road Maintenance Joseph Otim, Human Resource Manager Jennipher Kaggwa and Director Planning Isaac Wani among others.
Mathias Ofumbi told the committee that UNRA picked the sixteen law firms from a list of pre-qualified lawyers by the Solicitor General.

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However, Budadiri West MP Nathan Nandala Mafabi questioned how UNRA arrived at the sixteen law firms and left out others.
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Mary Kuteesa Kamuli, the UNRA Legal Director promised to avail details of the private law firms that were used by the authority in the past, saying that since 2015, the UNRA legal directorate handles all legal matters in-house.
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About the author

Olive Nakatudde
Olive Nakatudde is a URN journalist based in Kampala. Nakatudde has been a URN staff member since 2013.

Nakatudde started out in journalism in 2009 with Dembe FM radio in Kampala. In 2012, Nakatudde joined Voice of Africa as a political reporter. She has been a photographer since her journalism school days at Makerere University.

Nakatudde is interested in good governance and public policy, which she reports on intensively from the Uganda Parliament. She is a keen follower of cultural affairs in Buganda Kingdom and covers the kingdom's Lukiiko (parliament). Nakatudde also reports on education and health.