Uganda’s Gulu district has been forced to sell off at least 30 plots of its land to settle part of the compensation for parish chiefs whose contracts were terminated about 20 years ago.
The district council passed a resolution in 2001 for the termination of contracts of parish chiefs who were working in the various sub-counties across the district.
The resolution led to the termination of contracts of 89 parish chiefs who later dragged the district to court and sought compensation for unlawful termination.
The High court in Gulu subsequently ruled in their favour and awarded them a compensation package of Shs 2.6 billion in 2010, with an interest rate of 18 per cent.
As the money accumulated to Shs 6 billion over the years, court attached the district assets including 23 vehicles, Pece War Memorial Stadium, the district administration building and 40 plots of lands in order to settle the payment.
In December 2016, bailiffs from Auctioneers and Court Bailiffs Associates attached the assets to recover the cost awarded. The then chief administrative officer (CAO) Dorothy Ajwang and the district chairman Martin Ojara Mapenduzi sought the intervention of police to rescue the situation.
Ojara explained that the district tried to engage the ministry of Local Government and the central government for financial support to settle the compensation in vain.
“While the ministry of Local Government said there was no money to give us, the Office of the President only saw our documents and said it was a bad case and the ruling was justifiable,” said Ojara.
He added that the bailiffs have so far covered Shs 2.4 billion of the total compensation cost. Part of the money was taken from the district accounts while others were raised through the sale of district properties that include land and institutional buildings.
The recently sold properties included a plot adjacent to Uganda Management Institute, a plot next to Gulu Main Prisons and the building of Gulu Support for Children Organization (GUSCO), the former rehabilitation centre for war-affected children of the Lord’s Resistance Army, among others.
Geoffrey Okaka, the Gulu district CAO however said the revenue collection in the district has gone low to raise the money that could help the district to even finance its own daily running costs. He expressed fear that the district may lose most of its assets to cover the cost if the central government fails to intervene.
Piloya Evelyn, a councilor representing Paicho sub-county in Gulu District Local Government says the debt burden is worrying and urged the district to pay keen attention in handling the employees.
The case against Gulu came when three other districts of Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro were still part of the greater Gulu district where the complainants were working before the termination of their contracts.