Members of the Parliamentary Local Government Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have urged Jinja city authorities to consider negotiations instead of pursuing legal battles. They expressed concern about the increasing number of court cases faced by Jinja City, especially during the 2020/2021 financial year, which have led to delays and potential fines.
The Auditor General’s report highlighted the city’s numerous court cases and a reluctance to attend proceedings, which has prolonged their resolution and the risk of substantial fines if judgments don’t favour the city.
The report also raised concerns about the possibility of collusion between some city authorities and plaintiffs to defraud the government through compensation claims.
Noah Mutebi, the acting PAC chairperson and Nakasongola MP, questioned why a well-established entity like Jinja City didn’t engage in negotiations before resorting to litigation. He emphasized that most of the ongoing court cases were related to land disputes, which can be costly in terms of legal fees and negatively impact service delivery.
Mutebi also raised concerns about the city’s reluctance to collaborate with other government agencies in land surveying and titling, which could prevent land-related conflicts that lead to court cases. He highlighted cases where encroachers illegally title land and then sue Jinja city for trespass or denial of access, potentially resulting in substantial compensation payments. This, he argued, could significantly reduce budgets for essential services.
In response, Jinja city clerk Edward Lwanga explained that they initially hired private lawyers in Jinja city to expedite proceedings. However, the Attorney General subsequently assigned six government lawyers to handle their cases in court. Lwanga also mentioned ongoing mediation processes aimed at reaching out-of-court settlements to save government resources.