Constitutional Court Concludes Hearing Case Against Lubowa Hospital Loan

 The Constitutional Court on Thursday concluded the hearing of the case challenging the process leading to the approval of a 1.4 trillion shillings guarantee for the construction of Lubowa International Specialized Hospital Uganda-LSHU. 

The process was challenged by a Civil Society Organization, the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights- ISER in their petition filed against the Attorney General in 2019.

In March 2019, Parliament approved 1.4 trillion shillings for a proposal by the Italian Investor, FINASI ROKO Construction Special Purpose Vehicle Limited, a member of the FINASI-Roko Consortium. This is an entity that specializes in the construction of Turnkey healthcare facilities the facility with a 264-bed specialized Healthcare capacity and will be operated as a world-class internationally accredited facility to treat conditions for which Ugandans have been traveling abroad.

The project which has since stalled was to be financed through promissory notes from the government of Uganda as a Public Private Partnership.

The arrangement is that government will finance the construction firm to build and run a specialized facility, and the firm will then pay back within eight years with effect from the commencement of the operations. 

However, shortly after the approval, ISER petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking to cancel the parliamentary resolution to guarantee the money.  

They argue that the resolution by Parliament is unconstitutional because the entire procedures leading to the approval of the resolution were improper and that the process of the conceptualization of the project was marred with a lack of transparency and participation of the citizens who are bound to shoulder the financial implication of the loan obligations, which the state has illegally gotten into. 

They further argue that the construction of the hospital will not solve Uganda’s Health Sector challenges and that as such, the entire project runs against the broader national interests that should be protected.

ISER thus asked the court to issue an order that within one year from the determination of the petition, Parliament furnishes the Court with a comprehensive framework on how it intends to ensure effective citizen participation in the processes leading to approval of the project.

They also asked the court to order Finance and Health Ministers to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to implement the project in line with the Public-Private Partnership Act.

On Thursday, a panel of five Constitutional Court Justices led by Frederick Egonda-Ntende heard the parties in the case regarding why the court should decide in their favor.    The other Justices are: Elizabeth Musoke, Christopher Madrama, Monica Mugyenyi, and Christopher Gashirabake. 

Lawyers Wandera Ogalo and Joseph Manoba represented ISER while the Attorney General was represented by State Attorney Allan Mukama who have all been allowed to adopt their submissions. 

According to the Attorney General, ISER’s petition is barred in law, not having any serious purpose or value because it raises no issues or questions for interpretation by the Constitutional Court.

He adds that the agreements signed do not in any way contravene the constitution and that failure by the Finance Planning and Economic Development to acquire Parliamentary approval for Government to issue the promissory note of 379.71 million United States Dollars prior to the execution of the direct agreement is not unconstitutional. 

“That the International Specialized Hospital of Uganda- ISHU agreements did not flout the procedural requirements for approval by Parliament and therefore are not null, illegal and or in contravention of the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995 as amended”, reads Attorney General’s response. 

The Attorney General now wants the case, therefore, dismissed because the rights of the petitioners will not in any way be prejudiced. 

After hearing from both parties, the Justices promised to deliver their judgment on notice.

In April 2022, Ramathan Ggoobi, the Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury said that the commissioning of Lubowa hospital which was expected in September this year was pushed to 2024 because of the delayed civil works due to heavy rains and COVID-19 interruptions.

But a section of Members of Parliament attributes the stalling of the hospital to alleged incompetence by the investor.

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