Nakyobe named chief NAM summit organiser

Head of Public Service and Secretary to Cabinet Lucy Nakyobe. PHOTO | DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Sources told this publication that the President first hinted at putting in place an executive organising committee for the summits following “an embarrassing” encounter with a section of government officials during a meeting on February 2 at State House, Entebbe.

President Museveni on Monday named the head of Public Service and Secretary to Cabinet, Ms Lucy Nakyobe, as the chief executive officer of the organising committee of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)-G77 summits scheduled for December this year.

Ms Nakyobe, who formerly worked as the State House comptroller for 12 years, will be deputised by Uganda’s permanent representative the United Nations Adonia Ayebare.

Mr Museveni, according to sources familiar with the matter, made the announcement during a Cabinet sitting on Monday. The duo will work independently but in concert with the National Organising Committee (NOC) led by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja which has been running the show since last year.

Sources told this publication that the President first hinted at putting in place an executive organising committee for the summits following “an embarrassing” encounter with a section of government officials during a meeting on February 2 at State House, Entebbe.

During the meeting convened to receive updates, the President and officials present were reportedly left shocked, when a senior Foreign Affairs official “fumbled” with a presentation prepared for them. Sources said the official had forgotten an up-to-date version of the presentation prepared for them—which was shared with State House in advance—at home and was reading from an old one.

As the official fumbled and documents fell below their feet, not even their line technocrats present could put up any face-saving act.  After the meeting, which also discussed the tight-rope pulling between Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) and businessman Sudhir Ruparelia over money for construction of a Convention Centre at Commonwealth Resort—Munyonyo, the President noted the need for better organisation and planning.

The decision was also partly informed by the lack of coordination between ministries, agencies and departments (MDAs) involved in organisation of the summits. Some MDAs had, however, drawn budgets to spend on activities related to the summit.

For instance, during a separate meeting at State House, Nakasero on Wednesday this week, it emerged that the Ministry of Works had budgeted for Shs70b for purchase of lead cars alone. Another Shs1.5b was budgeted as expenditure for washing and sprucing the luxury Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for the guests.

The Works’  budget was, however, watered down. The Chinese government in late 2019 donated 70 SUVs, alongside access control machines and interpretation equipment to be used during the summits. Works officials indicated that some SUVs have been nibbled by various agencies, including State House. One official told of finding one of the SUVs ferrying matooke on Mbarara-Masaka Highway.

Nonetheless, sources said the Chinese government has since donated another 100 cars which made ministry’s budget “ridiculous”.

In naming focal persons to coordinate the organisation of the summits, sources also said Mr Museveni is keen to attempt to avoid past mistakes that marred the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in 2007.

The Chogm scandal[s] involving billions of shillings misappropriated through dubious procurements, wheeler-dealing, and influence peddling syndicated across MDAs and private businessmen, is one of the major corruption sagas under the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government.

The 2007 Chogm was convened in Kampala under the theme, “Transforming Societies”, which the late Queen Elizabeth II said in her opening speech, conveyed a clear commitment to change for the better, but the subsequent back-to-back audit inquires made many believe it was a feeding frenzy for sacred cows in government.

Monday’s appointment of an executive committee was not immediately received well by the NOC. 

Ms Nakyobe and her team are expected to critically look at all budgets, coordinate all activities related to the summit, and most importantly to push for completion of the Commonwealth Convention Centre by latest the first week of October contrary to the earlier planned date of mid-November.

“Budgeting is Lucy’s strength having been comptroller for 12-years and before that having worked as undersecretary for finance and administration at the same address,” a source close to Cabinet told Daily Monitor.

Ms Nakyobe joined State House in 1991 starting out in the energy and natural resources department. She was named head of Public Service in July 2021 during the reshuffle for Permanent Secretaries, replacing John Mitala who died late-last December.

The team is today expected to make a stock-taking exercise at the site of the construction of the Convention Center in Munyonyo. The $47m (Shs172b) facility, developed as a joint venture between UDC and Mr Ruparelia, is expected to comprise a 4,000-seater auditorium and several breakaway rooms for plenary sessions.

Attempts to get a comment from Ms Nakyobe were futile by press time. Her deputy, Mr Ayebare, confirmed the development saying: “It is true I was appointed to deputise Ms Nakyobe and we will work as a team with the NOC to deliver a well-planned NAM summit.”

NAM comprises 120 countries that are not aligned to any of the rival eastern and western power blocs and it was founded during the Asian-Africa meeting in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955. The G77 is a coalition of UN countries from the global south to advance their collective economic interest.

Preparation for hosting the two summits started in 2019, when Uganda was endorsed for the chairmanship of NAM from 2022- 2025.

Only four African countries; South Africa, Zimbabwe, Algeria and Egypt have organised the summit before. The Uganda summit is expected to be attended by at least 50 heads of State, making it the largest conferences for Uganda to host.