On Friday, High Court Judge Musa Sekaana dismissed Richard Byarugaba’s case seeking the removal of Patrick Ayota as the Managing Director of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). The judge stated that the court could not overturn Mr Ayota’s appointment, as it resulted from a recommendation of the Board.

In 2021, a dispute arose within the National Social Security Fund between the Minister of Gender, Labour, and Social Development, Betty Ongom Amongi, and Mr Byarugaba, an applicant. The Minister attempted to terminate Byarugaba’s contract early by arguing that he would automatically retire at age 60. However, Byarugaba was able to serve out his second term due to the intervention of the Attorney General.

The Applicant, Richard Byarugaba, attempted to contest the National Social Security Fund’s (NSSF) decision to not extend his contract as managing director. The Board of Directors recommended that Patrick Ayota and Byarugaba be renewed, but only Ayota was renewed due to accusations of financial impropriety and other wrongdoing against Byarugaba.

Byarugaba, however, was exonerated of these charges in a report by the Inspector General of Government. However, the renewal was turned down, ostensibly due to bias and personal hostility. The Deputy Managing Director was deemed unqualified under NSSF regulation having not acted in the position for at least one year., and the Board declined to promote him to the Managing Director post.

Byarugaba argues that the Board’s independence was compromised when it decided not to extend his contract arbitrarily and under the undue influence of Minister Amongi.

It was from this background that Byarugaba ran to court seeking an Order of Mandamus issue, directing the Minister to discharge her statutory duty to complete the reappointment of the applicant to the position of Managing Director of the National Social Security Fund as recommended by the Board and required by law.

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In his petition, he also wanted the court to issue an order of Certiorari issue to call up and quash the decision of the Minister by letter dated 18th August 2023, purporting to appoint  Mr Patrick Ayota as Managing Director of the Fund, a position to which he is not entitled to be eligible to act.

Also wanted the court to issue a permanent injunction preventing/restraining Mr. Patrick Ayota from acting in the position of Managing Director of the Fund, a position in which he is not entitled to act.

However, in his ruling High Court Judge, Musa Sekaana explained the applicant did not explicitly demonstrate that there was bias or breach of the rules of natural justice. “The applicant was investigated by separate organs including Parliament and IGG not at the instigation of the 2nd respondent but rather on the statutory and Constitutional mandate of different government agencies. I find this allegation devoid of any merit.”

He explained that because Mr Ayota held the roles of both Deputy Managing Director and Acting Managing Director, the applicant disputed the appointment, claiming it was illegal. The Board’s decision to propose the appointment of the third responder was unexpected, according to the applicant. He anticipated that the current legal actions will maintain the status quo. Nevertheless, the Board continued with the appointment process unhindered by court orders. The applicant’s objection, which focused on the third respondent’s dual roles, is unfounded because the third respondent made it clear that a different person served as deputy managing director. Furthermore, it is not possible to challenge the Minister’s decision based on the Board’s recommendation in the absence of the Board’s engagement in the legal procedures.

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“This court cannot quash the appointment of the 3rd respondent which resulted from a recommendation of the Board. Such a decision would violate the principle of fairness and would amount to condemning the Board unheard in respect of their decision to appoint the 3rd respondent,” said Justice Sekaana.

He ruled that the appointment of Mr Ayota was an act involving the Minister of  Labour, and Social Development as the Minister responsible for the affairs of NSSF through reporting and exercising supervisory functions after applying her mind to the exercise of power and following the law as prescribed and should not be interfered with in the absence of any justification or any breaches of the law.

“The court will not lightly presume abuse or misuse of power and will make allowance for the fact that the decision-making authority is the best judge of the situation. This application fails and is dismissed with no order as to costs.It is so ordered,” he said.

The post Why High Court Judge Sekaana Dismissed Richard Byarugaba’s Case to Remove Patrick Ayota as NSSF Managing Director appeared first on Watchdog Uganda.

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