Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) yet again won another court case against another oil company named Rock Petroleum (U) Ltd.
In 2009, Rock Petroleum through its lawyers of Muwema and Mugerwa Advocates sued URA in the High Court, to recover what they said was excise duty collected in excess.
The Court ordered URA to refund about Shs 48bn to Rock Petroleum and other dealers in petroleum products (about 56 in number).
Thereafter, the lawyers who represented Rock Petroleum attempted to attach 16% of the refund amounts, in the hands of URA, before the companies/beneficiaries could receive it.
This was successfully challenged by the beneficiaries, up to the Supreme Court. By then, (Muwema and Mugerwa Advocates) had already taken about Shs 4.7b from the URA bank account.
The Supreme Court ordered URA to still pay the companies, and recover the attached money from the lawyers.
In the meantime, these very lawyers went back to the High Court, seeking costs of the successful representation of the excise duty refund case against URA. They were awarded 5.8Bn in costs.
URA appealed and the Court of Appeal reduced it to 3 Million Shillings. In addition, the Court ordered that the amount that had earlier been taken by the advocates (16%) off the URA bank accounts (4.7 bn) be refunded. The lawyers were dissatisfied and appealed to the Supreme Court.
In a unanimous Judgment given on 6th November, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the Court of Appeal decision.
“The Taxpayers have been saved from paying Shs 5.8 Bn in costs to the private advocates” a statement from URA Public relations team states
URA is entitled to a refund of approximately UGX 4.7 Bn illegally taken by the said advocates, purported as 16% of the excise duty refund due to the beneficiaries, but which the lawyers had attached as professional legal fees due from the beneficiaries. Supreme Court had earlier held that those beneficiaries were not liable to pay the advocates.
“The case will foster discipline among legal practitioners who wish to use illegal means to earn excessive professional fees. The case is a big contribution by the URA team to the growth and development of jurisprudence in the country and the region at large” statement reads
“Congratulations to the formidable URA Legal and indeed the entire leadership at URA whose immense support earned URA this historical victory”