Why Every Local Govt Employee Should Enroll in an Administrative Law Course

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By Steven Masiga

Mbale, UG: According to Section 6 of the Penal Code Act in Uganda, ignorance of the law does not provide any accused person with a defence. When the famous Nigerian singer Fela Kuti sang that those who steal using a pen rob more than those who use a gun, many people took time to decipher what he meant because nobody imagined that civil servants or politicians could also steal in offices.

Much earlier, in criminal studies, one of the leading authors on criminology, Dr. Edwin Sutherland, wrote in the 1930s and raised the possibility of employees in government being involved in corporate crime or simply being thieves. Nobody imagined a government employee in a suit and tie could also steal.

Many people think that when an accused person is produced before the court, they are supposed to be punished by the court. That is not the primary intention of one appearing before the court. The purpose of producing an accused person in court is either to punish them if there is overwhelming evidence against them or to release them if there is insufficient evidence. Other reasons for producing accused persons in court include allowing the prosecution to prove their case and ensuring that an accused is tried by an independent court.

In Uganda, police records indicate that several employees in local governments and other sectors are involved in criminal behaviour, which may be due to an inability to understand the position of the law on what amounts to a crime. While others in senior positions have also taken decisions that contravene the law. For example, in one case in local government, the LC V chairman for Kapchorwa interdicted the chief administrative officer of the Kapchorwa District without being clothed with any power, legally it is technical officers who are clothed with power to interdict and not politicians.

In another astonishing case, the CAO of Butaleja sacked a subcounty chief when he was not vested with the authority to do so. This suit resulted in very high costs against the first respondent. A mastery of the knowledge of administrative law can cure some of the ills cited above, whereas many individuals have persistently failed to follow the provisions of the law and end up acting based on impulses and emotions, hence plunging local governments into financial crises on account of acting ultra vires or stretching the law for selfish benefits.

The Administrative Law Officer’s course currently offered by Makerere University and other universities across the country is designed to imbue learners with knowledge of the law, particularly with knowledge of what amounts to a crime, elements of crimes, types of punishments, and defences for criminal liability, among others. Other areas that the course focuses on include introduction to law, Local Government law, especially on the enactment of by-laws and ordinances in line with the Local Act, contract law and administration of contracts in Uganda, criminal procedure, and constitutional law, among other units.

The learners are exposed to principles of law that make up part of the units being taught, including presumptions of innocence cast on all accused persons in criminal law. The constitution declares all accused persons to be innocent in the eyes of the law. The learners are exposed to the knowledge of granting accused persons in criminal law an opportunity to explain themselves instead of condemning them unheard, captured under the Latin phrase ‘audi alteram partem’, and the knowledge about trial processes where the judge should not be a witness, chairman, or complainant in the same case.

Employees in local governments across Uganda should tap into the benefits associated with studying the Administrative Law Officer’s course if they are to stay out of trouble and escape compromising the implementation of various government programs. Makerere University, through the College of Education and External Studies and the Department of Community Education, has established various centers across the country mainly to help train local government employees as a way of supporting the decentralization process of the country.

It is on record that during the process, President Museveni consulted Makerere University heavily on how to go about decentralization by hiring Professor Mahmood Mamdani of Makerere University to manage the program of decentralization. The training of participants in administrative law takes cognizance of the following processes: application, whereby learners after applying there is a second stage of issuance of the admission letters especially if the university admissions committee is satisfied that the applicant qualifies for the course in question.

The training process commences and learners are expected to arm themselves with the following statutes: the Local Government Act, the Constitution of Uganda, the Police Act and Penal Code Act, and the Anti-Corruption Act 2009 are also given extra attention, among other learning aids. Many of these programs are conducted on weekends to enable all learners with busy schedules on weekdays not to miss the session.

The Administrative Law course targets the following categories of learners: all employees of Local Governments and public service including those who want to enter local government service, councillors, the police and those in prison service including those in non-governmental organizations among others. The course has the following benefits: it is used for the acquisition, promotion, and retention of a job in public service and also exposes learners to current knowledge about corrupt behaviours, especially under the Anti-Corruption Act 2009.

In summary, it equips the learners with the right knowledge and procedures to help in the implementation of government programs like PDM and EMYOOGA among other programs. Learners can fully strike out the difference between public property and private property since all employees are custodians of government property but not owners.

Do you have a story in your community or an opinion to share with us: Email us at thestandard256@gmail.com
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