MUASA Decries Refusal to Implement Suruma’s Directives On University Staff Tribunal

Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) has appealed to the University Chancellor Prof. Ezra Suruma to urgently intervene and restore the University Staff Tribunal.

Their appeal comes nearly two months since Suruma issued an order to the University Council, instructing them to apologize to the sacked Chairperson of the University Staff Appeals Tribunal, Justice Patrick Tabaro, and reinstate him immediately.

Suruma’s order followed pleas by Muasa to intervene in the matter as the University had spent nearly a month without a tribunal since it was suspended by the University management on the advice of the Attorney General claiming that it was not properly constituted due to the lack of requisite qualifications by its chairperson, Justice Tabaro.

The suspension of the tribunal caused tension among the staff at Makerere University, as it deprived them of a crucial avenue for seeking justice in cases of dismissal. The Staff Appeals Tribunal has long served as a vital platform for dismissed university staff to challenge decisions made by the Appointments Board and ensure a fair and unbiased hearing.

The Chancellor quickly responded in the letter dated May 22, where he questioned why the council removed the tribunal’s chairperson from office without consulting or seeking the approval of the appointing authority, who is the Chancellor of Makerere University.

He stated that the actions taken by the university secretary on behalf of the council were illegal and should be reversed. “Was the removal of the chairperson of the Tribunal by the university council through the university secretary lawful? The law states that the chancellor is the sole appointing authority of the chairperson of the Tribunal, and therefore, only the chancellor has the legal authority to remove the chairperson,” Suruma said in his letter.

Suruma also cautioned the University Council against further interference in the tribunal’s proceedings, as he believed it would compromise the tribunal’s independence and render it irrelevant.

“As you are aware, the tribunal has the responsibility to resolve disputes arising from staff aggrieved by the actions or decisions of management. In order for the Tribunal to carry out this responsibility faithfully, it should be able to make decisions without fear of punishment or dissolution by management due to its decisions,” Suruma’s letter adds.

However, despite the Chancellor’s intervention, more than a month later, MUASA says that the tribunal has yet to be reinstated, causing heightened tension among the staff members. Many find themselves entangled in various proceedings within the institution but are reluctant to express their concerns openly due to potential repercussions on their job security.

In their appeal dated 29th June 2023, signed by its Chairperson Robert Kakuru that URN has seen, they said that they discovered that Professor Suruma’s guidance that the tribunal should complete its term of office has not been implemented. They further aid that the continued absence of a functioning Staff Tribunal violates the rights of staff to be treated justly and fairly and is a risk to the University.

This has caused a lot of uncertainty and despair among staff that have pending cases before the staff tribunal. “There are many pending hearings before the Staff Tribunal where evidence has been given, but cases cannot be concluded as per the evidence on record because there is no Chairperson.” the letter reads in part.

They further allege that the Staff Tribunal was summarily suspended to deliberately frustrate their members because the University Council and Management could not allow some matters that had been heard to be concluded.

“Whereas you guided on the independence of the University Tribunal, the University Council is going ahead to develop guidelines for the Tribunal, which we believe is only aimed at further weakening the Staff Tribunal. The University Management and the University Council continue to disrespect and adapt to and sometimes refuse to implement the Staff Tribunal decisions, many staff tribunal decisions are yet to be implemented, and the university continues to descend into a state of lawlessness,” the letter adds.

It is from this background that Muasa once again asked the Chancellor to urgently intervene in the reconstitution of the University Staff Tribunal to avert the subsisting and imminent miscarriage of justice for its members that need the services of the Staff Tribunal.

The Association also asked the Chancellor to guide the University Council to drop the proposed Tribunal Rules, as a necessary ingredient for the protection of the independence and integrity of the Staff Tribunal. Our attempts to get a comment from the University regarding the matter were futile as the University Secretary Yusuf Kiranda who is the Secretary to the Council was unreachable by press time.

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