Nabbanja takes team of 12 for 90-minute meeting in US

Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja

What you need to know:

According to information on the Emirates website as of yesterday, a ticket purchased before September 30 for a flight from Entebbe International Airport to JFK International Airport in New York and used by March 2023, would cost $11,822 (Shs45m) for First Class.

Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja has picked 11 people, among them a chef and two aides, to accompany her on a flight to New York to attend a one-and-half-hour United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) sideline meeting.
Other officials accompanying the premier to New York include[d] a military assistant at the rank of a Colonel and another bodyguard, a communications advisor and assistant, an aide-de-camp and another aide, a liaison officer, a protocol officer, a principal assistant secretary and chef. 

The State Minister for Public Service, Mr Grace Mary Mugasha, is slated to travel with the PM.
Insiders familiar with the matter told this publication last evening that the entourage has since been reduced to eight.
The Office of Prime Minister Permanent Secretary, Mr Keith Muhakanizi , when asked last evening about the logic of the large entourage said: “To my understanding, that number has since been cut to five. It is no longer twelve.”
Ms Nabbanja did not immediately return our calls or text message for a comment on the matter.  

Her trip is, however, parallel to that of the Vice President (VP), Ms Jessica Alupo, who will lead the official Uganda government delegation to represent President Museveni at the annual summit of the global body. 
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary, Mr Vincent Bagiire, confirmed last evening that the VP will represent the President who until 2017 had hardly missed attending the assembly of all the 193 UN member countries.
This newspaper understands that the VP’s entourage is lean – half-a-dozen people.

Cash constraints
In July,  the government citing depressed cash flows and the necessity to control inflation, slashed first quarter budgets to ministries, departments and agencies, leaving bureaucrats with money large enough to pay salaries and utility bills.
It further tightened spending on foreign travel that President Museveni previously proclaimed as wasteful.
We were unable to establish the expected benefits of the sideline meeting on which Uganda, according to insiders, may spend about $60,000 (Shs228m) or higher on air tickets, accommodation, meals and allowances for the dozen officials. 

According to information on the Emirates website as of yesterday, a ticket purchased before September 30 for a flight from Entebbe International Airport to JFK International Airport in New York and used by March 2023, would cost $11,822 (Shs45m) for First Class.
The premier is entitled to fly First Class, but could tap an aide to seat nearby. The government will pay $5,066 (Shs19m) and $1,243 (Shs4.7m) for a one-way trip for the other staff in Business and Economy cabins.

It was not immediately clear how relevant the members of the PM’s entourage are for the UNGA Platform of Women Leaders meeting due in New York next Tuesday. Mr Muhakanizi yesterday said: “Well, to my understanding she (Nabbanja) was cleared by the President during Cabinet. If she was cleared then there is no problem. If you are still asking why the trip is relevant, that is a question that should be directed to State House.

PM’s invite
Mr Abdulla Shahid, the president of the General Assembly at its seventy-sixth session, and UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous invited Ms Nabbanja in her official capacity as Uganda’s Prime Minister and head of government business in Parliament.
Other eminent women invited to the meeting designed as a special initiative for current female heads of State and Government to discuss “priority issues on the international community’s agenda and identify solutions to today’s complex and interlinked challenges” are Namibian Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and Tanzania’s President Samia Hassan Suluhu.   It will run from 1:30pm to 3pm under the theme Transformative Solutions by Women Leaders to Today’s Interlinked Crises.

However on the premier’s entire team, there is only one senior technical officer from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Secretariat, yet the matter for discussion falls under goal 4 – on gender equality – of the 17 SDGs.
It remained unclear why, for instance, the VP who is representing the President at the UN General Assembly could not be designated to attend the sideline meeting, which would save government money.
Uganda’s ambassador to the United Nations Adonia Ayebare, asked last evening if the Mission doesn’t have the personnel to cover for such meetings said: “The Uganda mission is always ready to secure Uganda’s interests at the UN, including hosting high level dignitaries.”

The Prime Minister reportedly made a spirited case during Monday’s Cabinet meeting for her to travel abroad, and President Museveni okayed her trip to New York 

Don’t want to miss out on any story? For updates on all Monitor stories, follow this link on Telegram: