KAMPALA – Court has ordered the Executive Director of the National Drug Authority (NDA) to vacate office.
In a unanimous ruling, three justices of the Appeal Court dismissed an application in which NDA Executive Director Donna Asiimwe Kusemererwa had sought to temporarily halt a lower court order that quashed her position.
In September 2017, the High Court declared the appointment of Kusemererwa as the executive director of NDA unlawful and unjustifiable.
But she appealed against the High Court decision and had asked court to temporarily halt the execution of the orders until her appeal is disposed of.
In a ruling by three Justices led by Deputy Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo, the court also bars Kusemererwa from acting in the position of the Secretary to the authority. Other judges are Egonda Ntende and Percy Tuhaise.
“Having heard counsel on both sides, the applicant has not brought proper and fit reasons. We disallow the application,” Justice Dollo ruled.
The High Court before Justice Stephen Musota ruled that the position occupied by Kusemererwa, who replaced Dr Gordon Sematiko, was non-existent.
“A declaration that the position of the executive director in which the 2nd respondent [Ms Kusemererwa] was appointed was/is nonexistent and contrary to Section 54(2) of the National Drug Authority Act Cap 206,” the court held.
“An order of Mandamus do issue directing the Authority of the NDA (the 1st Respondent) to advertise the vacant position of secretary within 60 days from the day of this ruling including weekends and public holidays,” it added.
The High Court decision came from a case in which the former Head of Drug Assessment and Registration at the authority, Florence Nakachwa sought for a judicial review challenging her contract termination.
Ms Nakachwa asked the court to declare that Ms Kusemererwa was illegally occupying the office as the executive director.
The three justices said that they will deliver on notice the appeal in which Ms Kusemererwa is seeking to overturn the High Court decisions.
Through her lawyers, Kusemererwa criticized the High Court for handling employment issues under judicial review.
Mr Andrew Lumonya, the lawyer representing Kusemererwa argued that the trial judge erred in law and fact on relying on technicalities instead of facts on how Ms Kusemererwa was recruited by NDA.
According to Lumonya, the error was made in title but the substance on roles assigned to the secretary remains intact.
“I concede on the mistakes made on the title but it does not make substance. I pray that the content of the employment contract be considered,” he argued.
But Nakachwa, through her lawyers led by Isaac Kyagaba, asked the court to uphold the High Court decision arguing that it was based on law and facts.
According to Kyagaba, the post of Executive Director is not provided for under the NDA Act which formed the basis of the case.
Ms Kusemererwa a Pharmaceutical Management Expert who previously worked with the Joint Medical Stores as the General Manager and Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network as an Executive Director took over office in 2016 for a five year tenure.
She replaced Kate Kikule who served as acting executive director following the sacking of Dr Sematiko at the peak of corruption scandals that were then being investigated at the drug authority.
In February 2015, Dr Sematiko, the then executive secretary/registrar, and Dan Badebye, the head of finance at NDA, were fired for transferring $5m (about Shs14b) from the official authority account to an unauthorised fixed deposit account.