State Attorneys have joined prosecutors in demand for better salaries, Chimp Corps exclusively report. The attorneys demand salary increments of nearly 10 fold their current payment.
This Tuesday, the state attorneys filed a petition to the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Gen Kahinda Otafiire, making known their demands for better remuneration and working environment.
Last month, State Prosecutors under the Uganda Association of Prosecutors (UAP) met with the same minister Otafiire at Imperial Royale Hotel, and aired their grievances concerning low pay, but the minister urged them to be a little more patient. These vowed to lay down their tools if government didn’t respond
Government Attorneys and prosecutors say they have been pushed to the limit by the inaction of certain government officials, and have run out of patience.
One of these officials, according to the State Attorneys petition to the minister, is the Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi, who on two occasions has adamantly refused to implement a directive from President Yoweri Museveni to increase their salaries.
In 2006, according to the petition, Mr Muhakanizi together with Minister of Finance (then Ezra Suruma) and Public Service Minister (Henry Kajura) were directed by the President to enhance their pay in the Financial Year 2006/17 but this directive was disregarded.
Instead, the ministry got Shs5 billion and spread it across officers in the Directorate of Public Prosecution’s Office, Uganda Law Reform Commission and the Judiciary.
Last year, the president once again ordered for a pay raise for the state attorneys but this time no action was taken.
The current salaries of State Attorneys according to their petition, are simply unacceptable compared to the salaries and allowances of legal officers in the Uganda Law Reform, Kampala Capital City Authority, Uganda National Roads Authority, Bank of Uganda and other legal departments.
Currently, the lowest paid (State) Attorney earns a net monthly salary of Shs978,880. The Solicitor General — the highest paid — takes home Shs11.4 million.
Compared to their colleagues in private practice, on average an enrolled lawyer (least paid) takes home Shs3 million while senior firm partners earn up to Shs20 million a month.
Given the current economic situation, a salary of Shs980,000 for a state attorney could easily be cut in half by just rent for a modest house in Kampala or Wakiso.
State Attorneys, as lawyers, belong to a certain class especially in view of the nature of persons they interact with and responsibilities they carry in the course of their duties. They must dress presentably to office and to court.
In their petition, the lawyers point out that even trying to enhance this income by themselves is not possible.
“If we take the good advice of H.E. the President to “kulembeka”, we need capital for any side business.
“A bank can only offer you up to Shs 16,000,000 on a salary of Shs984,000 (and then deduct Shs 500,000 monthly for 5 years). Besides, you would need to give time to any start-up business, otherwise statistics and reality show that most business start-ups fail because of poor management. Since State Attorneys work from 8:00am to 5:00pm daily, one will have less time for any side business,” they say.
A 1993 World Bank study shows that low salary levels result in absenteeism, alternative employment, rent-seeking (e.g. the “per diem” problem and sitting allowance) and low productivity.
This is already evident, as an estimated 10 State Attorneys are said to be leaving the Ministry of Justice on a yearly basis.
State Attorneys handle cases for central Government, allied government institutions, Local Governments and the General Public.
By estimation, Ugandan State Attorney on average has to handle 375 as minimum per year from the Directorate of Civil Litigation, 250 files from the Administrator General; 375 contracts and request for legal opinions from Directorate of Legal Advisory Services.
This doesn’t include the work on all Government Bills, Statutory Instruments from all the Ministries and Government Departments, Ordinances and Bye-laws from all the Districts of Uganda and lower local Governments Ordinances and By-laws from all the Districts of Uganda and lower local Governments.
What they want
The State Attorneys have their own proposal for the ‘appropriate’ monthly remuneration, which takes into account the current economic environment.
“It is important to have salary enhancement so that we are not forced to supplement our income elsewhere thus giving divided attention to our work,” they state in the petition.
According to their proposals, the least paid State Attorney should be given a net monthly salary of Shs8.6 million, while the Solicitor General, at least Shs19.6million, as shown in the table below.
On top of this, they want an annual professional attire allowance of Shs2 million and a non-practicing allowance ranging from Shs2.4 million, as is done in other countries.
Unlike medical officers, State Attorneys are not allowed to carry out any private practice due to the likelihood of conflict of interest.
Last month during their meeting with Minister Otafiire, Members of the Prosecutors association have government up to two weeks, according to the UAP association Chairman David Baxter Bakibinga to respond to their demand, or they would lay down their tools indefinitely.
Minister Otafiire however, urged them to be patient as government considers their concerns.
He also asked them to exploit all the other possible avenues rather than rushing to striking.
“The most successful Generals are those who win without firing any single bullet; industrial action may not help. Don’t use the biggest gun at the beginning of the battle. You should allow us time to work on this issue since it is coming up for the first time,” advised the minister.