The government has moved to amend the law governing the statute of prosecutors and other staff of the National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA).
Among the proposals is to increase the term of office for Prosecutor-General to five years.
Currently, the Prosecutor-General serves a four-year term renewable only once and, according to Justice minister Johnston Busingye, the move to increase the term by one year aimed at harmonising it with other judicial organs.
The proposed amendments, which were tabled before the Senate by Busingye on Monday, will also make it possible for prosecutors wishing to remain in service past their retirement age to stay on.
The term also concerns the Deputy Prosecutor-General and the chief prosecutors at the intermediate level.
“The five-year term only applies to the Prosecutor-General and his or her deputy plus the chief prosecutors at the intermediate level; others do not have a mandate and will be subjected to annual performance appraisals,” the minister told the senators while tabling the Bill.
“This is aimed to improve professionalism, ensure efficient service delivery and achieve objectives without necessarily restricting officials to a certain timeframe,” Busingye added.
Annual performance appraisals, according to the Bill, will form the essential basis for assessing the prosecutors’ right to promotion in horizontal scale, from one step to another, and salary increase and related special gratification.
Whereas the Prosecutor-General and his or her deputy will be appointed by Cabinet in consultation with the High Council of the NPPA, the chief prosecutors at the intermediate level will be appointed and have their mandates renewed by the High Council.
Minister Busingye further said the move seeks to rationalise activities and systems at the NPPA by making it flexible for prosecutors to exercise their duties.
The same draft law, if endorsed, is expected to allow retired prosecutors (above 65 years) a chance to voluntarily serve again, a move Busingye said would help courts make use of their experience.
“The age factor is an internationally observed pattern; the belief is that at such age, people are more stable, steady, experienced, unshakeable, and more researched unlike younger ones,” he said.
“Thus, if they willingly say ‘we want to continue to serve’, we thought there is no need to restrict them; these are people with invaluable experiences but they will need to apply for retention.”
Article 23 of the Bill states that, with the exception of the Prosecutor-General and Deputy Prosecutor-General, the retirement age of a prosecutor or an assistant to a prosecutor is 65.
However, it may be extended to 70 years upon application of the interested prosecutor or assistant to prosecutors when he is able to continue and only in the interest of service.
“Retirement may also be granted due to personal reasons, if one is aged at least 60. The decision of retirement, whether on the retirement age or prematurely shall be made by the High Council of the National Public Prosecution Authority upon proposal by the Prosecutor-General,” reads part of the Bill.
On the other hand, the piece of legislation says that retirement benefits for a retired prosecutor or assistant to prosecutors shall be granted according to the relevant laws.
Commenting on the Bill, Senator Jean de Dieu Mucyo, a former Prosecutor-General, said the proposed amendments were justified and timely.
The Bill will be scrutinised further at the committee level.