Thursday, August 7, 2014
Beware of the Deception and Fraud Underlying the LDC Pre-Entry Exam
By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
On Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, over 1000 lawyers will sit for the pre-entry examination. It is a requirement for admission to undergo postgraduate legal education and training (technically known as the Bar course in the legal profession) at the Law Development Centre (LDC). Attaining the Bar course qualifies one to become an advocate, fully entitled to practice law in Uganda. The exam is administered by the Law Council, in conjunction with LDC, both of which argue that it is meant to sieve and lock out students who did not appreciate basic principles of the law at undergraduate level. This is the official reason peddled around to justify the imposition of the exam, which has negatively affected about 5000 lawyers by denying them access to the Centre, since its imposition in 2010.
Ugandans ought to know however, that this reason is utterly false. The truth is that the pre-entry exam was introduced to eliminate stampeding and congestion at LDC, by keeping away as many applicants as possible. LDC is the only institution in Uganda that is mandated to train advocates. Every year, law graduands from all the universities in Uganda and elsewhere apply to join it, but because of space constraints at the Centre, not all of them can be admitted. The exam is therefore, a convenient control mechanism, which enables LDC to get the number of students it can accommodate at a time – about 400. Thereafter, the nation is misinformed that the rest were not admitted because they failed the exam. Failure is given as an excuse because it is easier to sell and understandable than space constraint. This deception underlies this exam. Citizens ought to be aware of it and act appropriately.
But there is a lot more to know: as if this is not bad and ugly enough, the exam is also financially fraudulent and utterly extortionist. Students are charged a lot of money before sitting for the exam, yet its administrators know very well that for an overwhelming majority of them, it is an automatic dead-end – they will not be admitted to LDC! Consider this year. First, each student must apply to be admitted to LDC and pay Uganda shillings fifty thousand only (Ugx 50,000/-); and second, the student must pay for the pre-entry exam, an amount of Uganda shillings fifty thousand only (Ugx 50,000/-). In total, each student pays Uganda shillings one hundred thousand only (Ugx 100,000/-). All in all, students spend at least Uganda shillings one hundred million only (Ugx 100,000,000/-), clamouring to join LDC. Now, if only 400 students are admitted, that means that just Uganda shillings forty million only (Ugx 40,000,000/-) will have been properly utilized; the remaining balance of Uganda shillings sixty million only (Ugx 60,000,000/-) will go to waste, eaten easily and freely by the cabal at the helm of Uganda’s legal education system. This is the most officially sanctioned, organized, disguised and sophisticated financial impropriety syndicate ever seen. It is akin to polished highway robbery.
Moreover, passing the pre-entry exam is not a guaranteed passage to the promised land of legal practice. LDC entrants have a further hurdle of manoeuvring through the Centre’s incurably defective system that was designed to fail students. More than half of those who are admitted to the Bar course do not graduate! Their noble dreams and aspirations to practice their profession and make a living out of it, after several years of sacrifice (at least 20) are permanently buried in LDC’s infamous academic limbo. What is the reason? The same old scapegoat: students did not properly understand the law at undergraduate, according to LDC administrators.
One finds therefore, that Uganda’s current postgraduate legal education and training system is deliberately designed to keep out as many prospective law practitioners as possible, by passing too few, while failing far too many of them. We should break this monopoly sustainably, by devolving the Bar course training to universities operating law faculties in Uganda. We lodged a complaint to Parliament (available online here: http://www.bbbakampa.blogspot.com/2014/05/complaint-concerning-under-performance_10.html) analyzing most of these matters. There has been some progress, but ever since its motion was put on the Order Paper on Wednesday, 25 June, 2014, it stalled. I appeal to the House to address itself to this matter urgently and establish a Select Committee to investigate it, as proposed in the motion.