The Ministry of Public Service and Labour and that of Justice are working together to minimise cases of former public servants dragging government to court while making sure employers abide by labour laws.
The Minister for Public Service and Labour, Judith Uwizeye, and Justice minister and Attorney-General Johnston Busingye said this, yesterday, while appearing before the parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Affairs to respond to queries raised by the recent annual report of Public Service Commission.
The queries highlighted in the 2015/16 report involve lost litigations, breach and termination of contracts, provisional suspensions and or cutting down jobs by public institutions whose employees were fired illegally and dragged government to court.
The report says unlawful dismissals led government to lose Rwf524 million in damages awarded by courts.
The report, which was tabled before a joint sitting of Parliament and Senate, last year, also stated that from 2012 until late 2015, the Government lost lawsuits at the rate of 75 per cent.
Lawmakers summoned the ministers to explain the high rate of lost lawsuits with former employees, recurring administrative errors that lead to numerous lawsuits against government and strategies in place to contain the litigation rate.
“There is a long list of public institutions which fall in this particular case, yet behind those institutions there are individuals who led government into this loss, what is the way forward?” asked MP Berthe Mujawamariya.
The 154 lawsuits since 2012, according to the report, involve 51 public institutions, mainly districts and ministries, from which 254 public servants are reported to have sued, on different grounds, and ended up winning cases.
Collaboration reaping the fruits
Minister Uwizeye told the lawmakers that collaboration with other institutions has helped the Government identify some of the officials who should be held accountable and responsible for the committed financial mistakes.
“After the directives from the Ministry of Justice, all the public servants are all aware that whoever drives government into unnecessary court battles, which eventually lead to financial losses, will be individually held accountable,” she said.
“We have continuously been working with the Ministry of Justice, the Public Service Commission and all the institutions to be cautious when handling employee’s claims and to observe exhaustively what the law says before making any decision.”
Minister Busingye informed the legislators that since 2013 a lot of progress has been made and which soon might lead to significant reduction in lawsuits filed against the government in the near future.
“Before it was next to impossible for government to win a case,” he said.
Busingye said before the directives, there was a big void and that government would simply incur losses for ‘the sake of it,’ a toll that government won’t take anymore.
“The good thing we have seen people who come to us and say that they want to pay the damages before we go to courts, it’s something we are encouraging but then a habit yet to be fully embraced,” he added.
Although the minister told lawmakers that the Government is yet to establish the actual figure of how much money was lost on cases involving public servants, at least 152 people have asked to resolve matters regarding losses out of court.
Busingye assured legislators of measures in place, such as a commission of permanent secretaries tasked with seeing to it that all possible avenues are exhausted to avoid court battles, more sensitisation of public servants to strictly observe regulations and laws governing public service.
Other measures taken involve proper documentation and archiving any document which can be used as evidence, revise laws regulating compensations and damages and to make sure leaders in institutions are aware of the magnitude of these losses to avoid them in the future.