The Bank of Uganda (BoU) has spent a whopping Shs6.5bn on external lawyers, Business Focus reveals.
BoU mainly uses Timothy Masembe Kanyerezi of MMAKS Advocates and David Mpanga from AF Mpanga and Company Advocates as external lawyers to handle its legal cases.
Business Focus has learnt that the two top law firms own dollar accounts in one of the top banks in Uganda where BoU has been wiring the money directly from its account.
Most of these payments were effected this year 2017.
In total, BoU has paid over Shs6.5bn to the two legal firms that are currently representing Bank of Uganda (Crane Bank in receivership) in a case where the Central Bank is accusing property mogul Sudhir Ruparelia and his firm-Meera Investments Ltd for allegedly siphoning Shs400bn from the defunct bank.
It should be noted that in September this year, the role of Bank of Uganda’s legal department came into question after the Central Bank revealed that it had spent Shs3bn on external lawyers in a period of about two years.
BoU officials led by Governor Prof. Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile had appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) to answer queries raised in Auditor General’s Report.
Abdu Katuntu, the COCASE Chairman was shocked to learn that BoU was spending huge sums of money on external lawyers even on basic cases yet it employs about 10 lawyers.
“..Governor what I find quite unacceptable is that even placing a caveat on a property you have to go to external lawyers. I am seeing one here about a caveat,” Katuntu said.
He added: “You employ the best lawyers; you have a program where you can even train them; if we are talking about elementary legal duties but you’re running out to external lawyers and you have this bill of Shs3bn, it doesn’t make sense. You would rather grow your own capacity. That’s what other institutions are doing.”
COSASE asked BoU to give an exhaustive explanation of all the expenditures they had incurred on external lawyers.
Since September, BoU and COSASE haven’t come out with clear accountability and exact figure BoU has spent on external lawyers. But Business Focus can confirm that BoU spent over Shs6.5bn on the said law firms.
It is also worth noting that on Monday this week Principle judge Yorakamu Bamwine was appointed the new mediator in a case between Ruparelia and Bank of Uganda.
Bamwine’s appointment comes after the parties in the case rejected the earlier appointed mediator, Harriet Magala and instead suggested that they had confidence in the principle judge to act as a mediator in this case. On Monday, Justice Bamwine met Sudhir, his son Rajiv Ruparelia, his lawyer Peter Kabatsi and Bank of Uganda Supervision Director Justine Bagyenda for an hour closed-door discussion. In this mediation, BoU has dumped Timothy Masembe Kanyerezi and David Mpanga and opted for Sebalu & Lule co. advocates