Bushenyi Residents Sue Town Clerk over Denial of Public Information

Residents of Ishaka-Bushenyi Municipality have taken the Municipality leadership to court over failure to release what they called public information, saying it contravenes Access to Information laws.

Under their pressure group “Make Bushenyi Greater Again” (MBUGA), the residents led by the group General Secretary Apollo Kakonge Lee on 09th January 2020 filed a civil suit before the Bushenyi District Chief Magistrate’s court seeking court to compel the Ishaka-Bushenyi Municipal Council and the town clerk William Makune to disclose information about procurement and expenditure reports for all infrastructure works in the municipality.

In November last year, the group submitted an official request for information before the Office of the town clerk. Among the documents requested for included the annual district report submitted to the Uganda road fund (FY 2018-19) the approved infrastructure budget and work plan for the financial year 2018-2019, among others.

Kakonge however told theCooperator that nearly 3 months since the application for the information was submitted, they have not received any response, and attempts to follow up have fallen on deaf ears.

Now, appearing before Chief Magistrate Jane Mugala, on Wednesday last week, the applicants through their lawyer Julius Turinawe argued that the town clerk’s refusal to release the requested for information is unconstitutional and goes against the Access to Information Act of 2005.

Turinawe argued that the information being requested for was public information, which as a public body, Bushenyi-Ishaka municipal council is bound by law to avail to citizens.

“Article 41 (1) 1995 constitution provides that every citizen has a right to access information in the possession of the state or any other organ or agency of the state,” argued Turinawe.

He asked the court to compel Ishaka-Bushenyi Municipal Council to avail the requested information, adding, “In fact, for full transparency and accountability, all that information should be pinned at the notice board for everybody to come and see.”

Representing the Municipal Council, lawyer Naome Asiimwe, however, told the court that the information under request was prohibited under the Access to Information Act.

“The reports they are seeking are prohibitive in nature according to the access to information act of 2005 which states that no accounting records shall be removed from the room or safe storage facilities where they are normally kept except for audit or legal purposes,” she argued.

The chief magistrate Jane Mugala adjourned the application for judgment on March 17, 2020.

Outside court, Mr. Kakonge told journalists that he was asking for the information in public interest, vowing that he would continue to demand for transparency from public entities.

“It’s part of our work to hold our local leaders accountable. We monitored roads in Bushenyi-Ishaka municipality and found that little money has been used to work on our roads yet we receive a lot of road funds.

“We are hopeful that on getting this information we will be able to comprehensively monitor all the roads that are indicated in the report and make sure those stealing our money are apprehended” he added.

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