‘Make Bushenyi Greater Again’ sues Town Clerk over Denial of Public Information.
Residents in Bushenyi district under their pressure group ‘Make Bushenyi Greater Again’ (MBUGA) have decided to take the Bushenyi-Ishaka Municipality to court on grounds of failing to release public information.
Through the General Secretary, Mr. Apollo Kakonge Lee, the umbrella filed an application challenging the municipality town clerk Mr. William Makune for failing to provide information concerning the approved on road funds.
Appearing before the Chief Magistrate Jane Mugala the court application was first heard on Wednesday evening Feb 19,2020.
The two parties attended together with their lawyers to determine whether the application stands in accordance with the law.
During cross examination, the applicant’s counsel Julius Turinawe of Turinawe Kamba & advocates submitted went against the constitution to deny his client public information.
Among the documents the respondent disclosed to the applicant are; the document and record containing the annual report on Uganda road fund (FY 2018-19) The approved work plans for the financial year 2018-2019, Bills of quantities for the works executed in financial year 2017-2018, a file containing all the income and expenditure for the road fund financial year 2017/19 and approved annual procurement plan for the FY 2019/2020 notably among others.
With affidavits in support, Turinawe confirmed that Bushenyi-Ishaka municipal council is a public body entitled to provide public information to its citizens in accordance to article 41 of the 1995 constitution.
“Article 41 (1) 1985 constitution provides that every citizen has a right of access to information in the possession of the state or any other organ or agency of the state” said Turinawe
He added that Mr. Kakonge had the locus standard to apply for access to public information.
“A right to public information is a right but not a privilege and the applicant is a citizen of Uganda who has all the rights on earth to apply for the listed information because it qualifies to be public information” Turinawe explained
He therefore asked court to give the required information to the applicant.
“I resubmit that the respondent should give the required information to the applicant because all that information required is public information”
Mr. Turinawe added that the applicant also seeks the costs of this application since costs follow the events.
“We are close to a year and 21 days elapsed still the information is denied after the subsequent applications until the applicant come to court which is the altar of justice”
“In fact for transparency and accountability all that information should be pinned at the notice board for everybody to come and see” explained Turinawe
However, Naome Asiimwe-counsel for the 1st respondent retaliated that the applicant never followed the right procedure to ask for the public information.
“The applicant never paid a none refundable access fee for requesting a record from a public body. I therefore pray that the remedy is not withstanding” said Asiimwe
She added that the applied information was prohibitive to cause insecurity in the public.
“You realize that the reports they are seeking are prohibitive in nature according to the access to information act of 2005 which states that, No accounting records shall be removed from the room or safe storage facilities where they are normally kept except for audit or legal purposes.”
“With those submissions I pray that this application is dismissed with costs to the first and second respondents” said Asiimwe
The chief magistrate Jane Mugala chipped in and adjourned the application for judgment to March 17, 2020.
Outside court, Mr. Kakonge said he applied for the public documents in public interest to hold accountable of their leaders on road fund.
“It’s part of our day today work to hold accountable our leaders in the municipality and the district at large. We monitored roads in Bushenyi-Ishaka municipality and found out that little money has been used to work on our roads yet we receive a lot of road funds.
“We are hopeful that on getting this information we will be able to comprehensively monitor all the roads that are indicated in the report and make sure those stealing our money are apprehended accordance with the law” Kakonge explained
He charged that corruption in Bushenyi has been rampant citing the recent case where a municipality engineer was arrested.
“Last year we arrested the engineer but we say this should end that’s why you see they are against us not to release the information because there is something fishy they are hiding” said Kakonge.