Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has learnt that the Judiciary is stuck with at least Shs 24 billion of unclaimed bail money.
The money has been accumulating over the past years with an average of Shs 5 billion deposited every year on the Judiciary’s bank account in Bank of Uganda.
Judiciary permanent secretary Kagole Kivumbi made the revelation today, Wednesday to the committee chaired by Budadiri West MP Nathan Nandala Mafabi. Kagole was responding to audit queries raised in the auditor general’s report for June 2018.
Kivumbi said that due to the requirement for claimants to produce a receipt for payment, most of them do not claim the bail money after winning cases in courts. He also blamed ignorance of litigants in regard to their rights on bail money and the experience they go through while in court and prison.
MPs were told that the accumulated money does not attract interest and that for one to get access to their money, they need to secure a court order with instructions for money to be paid into their accounts.
"People, when they leave court, they don’t want to do anything to do with court. Secondly, to refund that money, you must produce a general receipt, [but] by the time someone is out of the court process, many don’t find it…and we don’t refund cash, I refund into a bank account but it needs sensitisation for people to know that they are entitled to this money…I’m stuck with that money." said Kivumbi.
Bail for an accused person according to the Constitution is a fundamental right with the suspect presumed innocent until proved guilty. Kagole’s revelation followed a query raised by Bunyole West MP James Waluswaka who questioned why litigants find it hard to access their money from court after being acquitted.
Adjumani Woman MP Jessica Ababiku wondered why the Judiciary has not taken steps to ensure that the public is sensitized about the availability of the money. She also called for a review of the procedure to access the bail money by litigants.
"Which actions have they taken to ensure the the public is aware that much money is still in their account because it has not been claimed because they have not put notices. But also you find that the procedure is so tedious, why don’t they do a review. People don’t come back to court because it is avery bad experience and what they go through. People get frustrated and you cannot deny me…because really if I have lost the receipt, I signed and before you release me, make sure that I have cleared all the processes…but now getting my Shs 100,000 becomes a problem. Are you fair to Ugandan communities." said Ababiku.
Kwania County MP Tony Ayo said that the Judiciary should pick interest and start public awareness.
"It should be in the interest of Judiciary and through the accounting officer that for all these years, year in year out you retain Shs 4-5 billion - accumulating to over Shs 25 billion or so. That should have been your responsibility to ensure that all due processes are met first of all to make the public aware and it is easier to access the money. This should be in your interest and I know maybe Judiciary is not bothered whether this money is collected or not because it can help you here and there. But the fact is that, people do not want to go court because sometimes it is a very hard place to go to - the embarrassment, the threats, the corruption which is around there." said Ayo.
Mafabi cited the need for the bail money procedure to be reviewed to have litigants automatically access their bail money once their cases are disposed off.