Prof Barya Shs100m victory an indictment on Nawangwe administration

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Prof Barya Shs100m victory an indictment on Nawangwe administration
Makerere University ordered to pay Prof Jean Barya Shs100m and reconsider his application for a post-retirement contract

John Jean Barya, a professor at the School of Law with a teaching experiencing spanning back to 1990, was denied a post-retirement contract despite proving he qualified for one.

NATIONAL | Makerere University has been ordered to pay a former law don Shs100 million in damages for "unfair" and "unwarranted" denial of a post-retirement contract.

In its June 4 ruling, the Staff Appeal Tribunal also ordered the university's Appointments Board to immediately reconsider Prof John Jean Barya's application for grant of a post-retirement contract not later than July 31.

"Makerere University shall pay the general damages within three months from the date of the ruling," the tribunal chaired by Dr Henry Onoria ruled.

The tribunal said the Appointments Board's unfair treatment of Prof Barya's application was "unwarranted and injured his name and integrity", yet he had served the university diligently for almost 30 years.

John Jean Barya, a professor at the School of Law with a teaching experiencing spanning back to 1990, applied for a post-retirement contract on January 20, 2020.

However, he hit retirement age on May 15, 2020, at a time a section of the university staff led by the academic staff association (Muasa), and students were in regular conflict with management led by Vice-Chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe.

Sources at the university who preferred anonymity in order to speak freely say Prof Nawangwe saw Prof Barya as a legal shield behind Muasa and the headache it was giving his near-militaristic administration.

Nawangwe had infamously suspended then Muasa chairman Deus Kamunyu in January 2020 and Comparative Law professor Barya's retirement age came as a blessing in disguise, a source added.

Prof Barya was ignored even after he had fulfilled the requirements provided in the Human Resource Manual and the recommendations of the School of Law, the tribunal noted.

On September 14, 2020, he wrote to the Directorate of Human Resource, only to be told on December 15, 2020 that the vice-chancellor was unable to recommend him for a post-retirement contract on the grounds of teaching load and engagement in research.

But the tribunal, whose first works in the Prof Barya appeal was heard by Justice Patrick Tabaro, took particular concern with the fact that the Appointments Board did not fully and properly take into account documentation from the academic units at the School of Law.

"The tribunal considers this very unfortunate given that it resulted in Makerere arriving at decisions that were not grounded in evidence and fact," it said, stressing that there was no due process, no proper evaluation of evidence, and no fairness.

Train of losses

While Makerere's administration will sigh with some relief that the Tribunal saved it further financial burden in trashing Prof Barya's prayer for for salary arrears and exemplary damages, the defeat sets the university back into recent painful legal battles.

In November 2020, Makerere University ran to the Ministry of Finance seeking help to raise over Shs1 billion to cover costs that arose after the Staff Tribunal ordered the reinstatement of suspended and sacked staff back on the payroll.

The university was grappling with the financial implications of losing several appeals by staff Prof Nawangwe was suspending or sacking irregularly.

Among them included Dr Peter Neema Abwooki, who won an appeal against a post-retirement contract denial and over Shs180m in damages.

The tribunal had also ordered reinstatement on the university payroll of Dr Stephen Tumwetegyereize and Dr James Ocita, who had been on half pay, while in January 2023, the tribunal ordered Makerere to pay Javason Kamugisha, the former Director of Legal Services salary arrears of close to Shs100 million.

Reeling and reeking from the endless rotten eggs hurled to its face by the tribunal's rulings, Makerere made the decision to kick out Justice Tabaro instead.

University Secretary Yusuf Kiranda cited legality of the retired high court judge chairing the tribunal since the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act stipulates that the chairperson must be a person qualified to be a high court judge.

Prof Nawangwe and his team were much relieved that Attorney-General Kiryowa Kiwanuka agreed with them but seasoned lawyer Henry Onoria, backed by his committee of Rhoda Nalubega, Helen  Nkabala, Sarah Wegosasa, Joseph Kalema, Fred Maniragaba, and Peter Eneru appear to have picked up from where Justice Tabaro left off.

Before Tabaro's tribunal was unceremonious disbanded in April last year, they had discussed and reached a framework of a ruling at a hearing on March 31, 2023, in the Prof Barya case.

Mr Kiranda told Nile Post that the decision and orders of the Staff Tribunal will be presented to Appointments Board "expeditiously for appropriate action".

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