Row rocks Shs147b convention centre
What you need to know:
- The convention centre is supposed to be fully functional before December to host week-long Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit.
President Museveni is today expected to chair a meeting between a cross-section of government technocrats and businessman Sudhir Ruparelia to harmonise the divergence in opinions that have beleaguered development of a convention centre at Commonwealth Speke Resort Munyonyo.
The convention centre is supposed to be fully functional before December to host week-long Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit. This will be followed by the South Summit, the supreme-decision making body of the G77 and China.
Today’s meeting, sources familiar with the matter told Monitor, follows a readiness assessment meeting yesterday chaired by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja to inform a status update for the President.
Also in attendance was Works and Transport Minister Gen Katumba Wamala, Junior Finance minister Henry Musasizi, Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) executive director Patrick Birungi and his political supervisors from Ministry of Trade, Mr Ruparelia and his son, Rajiv Ruparelia, among others.
The government is financing the convention centre as a joint venture with Mr Ruparelia. The project, whose MoU was signed last year in February, is tagged to a cost of $40m (about Shs147b).
Sources familiar with the matter intimated that the Treasury has since released 80 percent of the project finances through UDC. However, during yesterday’s meeting Mr Ruparelia reportedly complained of the slow release of the funds, saying it was impending progress of civil works.
UDC, which would have to account for the money advanced to the project, cited the need to undertake all necessary precautions to save government from possible loss of funds.
Gen Katumba further told the meeting of the poor working relationship with the project developer, to the extent of the latter locking out the ministry’s civil engineers dispatched to evaluate and audit the structural integrity of the foundation.
The meeting today is expected to offer guidance on some of the sticking issues standing in the way of the convention centre planned to comprise a 3,500-seat ultra-modern auditorium, a suspended restaurant overlooking Lake Victoria, and additional smaller conference rooms for sideline meetings during the 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 has been in works since 2019, when Uganda was endorsed for the chairmanship of NAM from 2022- 2025, and the government is hedging on them to salvage its image on the international fora.
While the government approved the convention centre project, in earnest insiders say it remains a polarising subject owing to the past experience of Commonwealth Speke Resort Munyonyo to accommodate Commonwealth Heads of Government (Chogm) in 2007.
During the several back-to-back meetings to discuss the next 2023-2024 budget framework paper, MPs accused the Ministry of Finance officials of failing to invest in pressing priorities to improve people’s livelihoods.