Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Makerere University has requested the University’s Management to withdraw the case it filed against its Staff Appeals Tribunal in the High Court. Recently, Makerere University sued its Tribunal for ordering the reinstatement of Dr. Malowa Davis Ndanyi as the Director of Human Resources.
The University is seeking a declaration that the Tribunal’s decision on March 1st, 2023, to set aside the termination of Dr. Malowa’s probationary contract was irrational, illegal, unjustified, and unreasonable. They are also seeking a declaration that the Staff Tribunal of Makerere University, as a tribunal set up to adjudicate disputes between the University and its employees or former employees, lacks the power to appoint or confirm employees in the University’s service.
However, in a letter dated January 8, 2023, seen by URN and written by staff members through their Associations—Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA), Makerere Academic Staff Association (MASA), and the National Union of Education Institutions (NUEI)—to the University Council Chairperson Lorna Magara, the staff argue that such a step is unprecedented, casting a dark shadow on the corporate governance, management, and image of the University.
“Members resolved to implore the university Council to withdraw the court case of Makerere University vs. the Makerere University Staff Tribunal,” reads part of the letter. These staff members argue that the Staff Tribunal is a “quasi-judicial organ.” Given that Mr. Kiranda, the University secretary, swore an affidavit in support of the application, will he again turn around and swear an affidavit in defense of the Tribunal, since he is the secretary to the Tribunal? “Since the plaint is filed by Makerere University, represented by the Directorate of Legal Affairs, who will represent the Staff Tribunal in this matter?”
“The University Staff Tribunal is funded by the University; will it now turn around as the funder of the Tribunal to fund the defense of the Tribunal in this suit? Don’t you think that this is a waste of taxpayers’ money?” Evidence before the Court indicates that in 2021, the Appointments The board recruited Dr. Malowa as the Director of Human Resources, and he was to serve a six-month probationary period before confirmation into the University Service for a 5-year contract of employment.
At the end of his six-month probation period, Dr. Malowa allegedly failed to satisfy the Appointments Board with his performance. Instead, he signed a consent agreement to extend his probationary contract period for another six months to rectify his performance inadequacy. However, on May 4th, 2022, the Appointments Board decided to terminate his probationary contract without confirmation from the University Service or attaining the five-year employment contract.
According to records, Dr. Malowa filed an appeal before the Staff Tribunal. However, Makerere University contends that throughout the proceedings of the appeal, the Tribunal conducted the same without any rules of procedure, allegedly making decisions without due regard for the University’s rights. On May 23rd, the Tribunal issued an ex-parte interim order directing the University not to advertise the post of Director of Human Resources. This decision was made without giving them the right to appear and respond to the application, even though the applicant was about 100 meters away from the seat of the Tribunal.
Further, the Tribunal delivered its ruling on March 1st, 2023, setting aside the termination with immediate effect and ordering Dr. Malowa’s reinstatement with salary arrears from the time when he was deleted from the payroll to date. In its case, Makerere University argues that the Tribunal doesn’t have the mandate to confirm staff in the University, and by issuing such an order, it acted outside the law and the institutional framework governing the applicant university. For a long time, Makerere University staff have been at loggerheads with the University management, particularly the University Council, over what they describe as an attack on the University Staff Appeals Tribunal.
This traces back to April 2023 when the University Council, following the advice of Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka, suspended the tribunal through a letter written by University Secretary Yusuf Kiranda. The letter, dated April 6, addressed to the chairperson of the Tribunal, stated that the tribunal was not properly constituted due to the lack of requisite qualifications by its chairperson, Justice Tabaro. The suspension of the tribunal created tension among staff at Makerere University as it eliminated an important avenue for university employees facing dismissal to seek redress. The Staff Appeals Tribunal has long served as a vital platform for dismissed university staff to challenge decisions made by the Appointments Board and seek a fair and unbiased hearing.
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