THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA
IN THE HIGH COURT OF UGANDA, AT KAMPALA
CIVIL SUIT NO. 214 OF 1996
LAWRANCE OKAE …………………….. PLAINTIFF
UGANDA POSTS AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS
BEFORE: THE HON. MR. JUSTICE V. F. MUSOKE-KIBUUKA
The plaintiff was employed by the defendant, in this judgment referred to as “the corporation.” He was employed as an executive officer, in he accounts department of the corporation. He started working for the corporation on 16th October, 1978, as a clerical officer.
On 28th September, 1995, the plaintiff was interdicted from duty upon some suspicion that he was involved in malpractices in connection with telecommunication services. He was, subsequently, on. 20th October, 1995, retired, in public interest, on the ground that he was a person of doubted integrity.
Upon his retirement, in public interest, the plaintiff was paid his retirement benefits as ere due on the date of retirement. However, he was not satisfied that the he decisions
to interdict him and., subsequently, to retire him in public interest had been lawful. He contends that the decision to retire him from the service of the corporation was taken in contravention of the corporation’s own Staff Regulations, Terms and Conditions of Service. The plaintiff further claims that the decision to retire him in public interest, was made in utter breach of the fundamental rule of natural justice (audi alteram Partem) in that before his fate was determined, he was never given an opportunity to be heard.
The plaintiff also claims that the ground of doubted integrity upon which he was retired, purportedly in public interest, was never properly established. He claims that That ground was merely imputed upon him by a fellow employee of the corporation (DW2) who was assigned by the head of the Investigation Bureau of the corporation to investigate the allegation against the plaintiff, hut whom the plaintiff claims to have had some social differences.
In his amended plaint, the plaintiff seeks, from this honourable court, the following orders:
a) a declaration that his involuntary retirement from the corporation’s employment is unlawful.
b) salary, allowances and terminal benefits, from the date of the purported dismissal, 21st October, 1995, to the date which would have been the plaintiff’s normal
retirement date, 15th October, 2003.
c) punitive/exemplary and general damages; and
d) interest and costs of the suit.
It is contended, by learned counsel. Mr. Nyanzi Yasin, on behalf of the corporation, that the plaintiff’s interdiction on 20th September, 1995, and his subsequent retirement, in public interest, on 20th October, 1995, were lawful and were carried out in strict accordance with the law and the Staff Regulations, Terms and Conditions of Service, of the corporation. The corporation prayed that this suit be dismissed with costs to it.
At the beginning of the trial, three issues were agreed upon by the two learned counsel involved in the case. They are:
a) Whether the plaintiff’s interdiction was lawful.
b) Whether the plaintiff’s retirement in public interest was lawful.
c) Whether the plaintiff is entitled to the reliefs which he seeks.
The plaintiff was the sole witness on his side. The corporation called four witnesses, namely, DW1 Gwanyambadde Dick, an investigation officer with the corporation’s investigation branch. DW2 was Okiya Charles Michael, the Chief Investigation Officer of the corporation. DW3 was Kategaya Samson, a Senior Personnel Officer, and DW4 was Asiimwe Vincent, EU in the Personnel and Administration department of the corporation.
Now, the first issue in respect of which I have to analyse the evidence is whether the plaintiff’s interdiction was lawful.
It appears to me that the subject at interdiction of any member of staff of the corporation is governed by regulation 23.12.1 of the Staff Regulations, Terms And Conditions of Service. That regulation sets out three instances when interdiction is appropriate:
a) When an officer is charged by the police with an offence which , if proved, would lead to his or her dismissal;
b) when suspension of an officer from duty has been lifted after an acquittal of the office by a court and disciplinary proceedings which would lead to the
officer’s dismissal are being taken or are about to be taken; and
c) When proceedings involving departmental charges before the disciplinary committee have been taken or are about to be taken leading to the officer’s dismissal.
The interdicting authority is set out in appendix C to the Staff Regulations (under delegation by the Board vide paragraph 23.12. of the same Staff Regulations.) in the instant case, the interdicting authority should have been the Director of Personnel.
It clearly appears to me that the plaintiff’s interdiction did not fall, under any of the three instances set out under regulation 1 which I have outlined above. The letter
of interdiction, Exhibit P1, only mentioned that the plaintiff was suspected of involvement in malpractices in connection with telecommunications services. No departmental charges were mentioned or ever presented. No proceedings were ever commenced before any disciplinary body. The letter never mentioned any.
It is, therefore, quite apparent that: the interdiction was done pre-maturely and outside the provisions of the Staff Regulation.
The next issue is whether the plaintiff’s retirement in public interest was lawful.
Mr. Nyanzi did submit that it was. He argued that the plaintiff was retired in public interest after full investigations had been carried out. Secondly, he argued that the plaintiff had failed to act in an honest manner and had caused financial loss to his employer as a result retirement in public interest or summary dismissal was justified at common law. Mr. Nyanzi relied upon the decisions in Obonyo vs. Chillington Tool Co. Ltd. (1988) HCB and Mary Mugenyi vs. CMB, C. App. No. 13 of 193. In regard of the common law principle of the employer employee relationship whereby an employer has an inalienable right to dispense with the services of an employee, he relied upon S. B. Kibirige vs. Uganda Commercial Bank (1992) II KALR 162 and John Elatu vs. Uganda Airlines Corporation (1984) HCB 40.
I have had an opportunity to peruse those decisions. I do not think that they bear any relevance to the instant case.
First of all, in the instant case, it is not true that it was ever established that the plaintiff had failed to act in an open honesty. The report, Exhibit D2, which arose out of what appears to have been a very rudimentary investigation which was carried out by a Mr. Gwayabadde DW1, was very specific. It stated that there was no conclusive evidence to show that the plaintiff had been involved in the alleged malpractices. However, the same report for some rather incomprehensible reasons went on to recommend that because the plaintiff was working in the same section where the suspected telephone numbers’ bills ought to have been handled, but were not he could
have influenced that act even thought he himself was only responsible for government, public corporations and Embassy telephone bills. The report specifically stated that there was nothing more than mere suspicion against the plaintiff. That was never the case in Obonyo’s and Mary