Uganda: Confusion As Government Disowns High Level-Summit

11 September 2019

The government has disowned a high level summit on Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) due next week in Kampala, for which participants from all-over the world were required to pay up to $950 (Shs3.4m) to attend.

Adverts for the three-days "High Level PPP Conference 2019" have been running in local media over the past months, with President Museveni billed as the guest of honour, alongside a list of prominent speakers from around the world and some heads of international institutions.

Daily Monitor has, however, learnt that some speakers and institutions such as the World Bank have protested to government about being associated with an event they are not party to.

The co-organisers, according to the adverts, include government, World Bank, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

According to the conference's website https://www.pppforumafrica.com/, interested participants can register for three packages, including $350 (Shs1.2m), $750 (Shs2.7m), and $950 (Shs3.4m).

Finance minister Matia Kasaija, who is listed among the speakers, in a letter dated August 6 to President Museveni, indicated the conference is being convened by private individuals who are using government's name, which has sparked off confusion and chaos.

"Given the above misrepresentations, I advise that Your Excellency, you disassociate yourself from the event," he wrote.

The letter is also copied to both the ministries of Foreign Affairs, which under normal circumstances is supposed to coordinate visits by foreign dignitaries, and Internal Affairs, which is supposed to coordinate security.

Mr Kasaija added: "Government is not party to the private sector event which is being organised. Organisers of the event could continue with their own arrangements without involving Government of Uganda as both co-organiser and co-funder of the event."

President Museveni, according to correspondences, had confirmed attendance after the organisers assured him that several high profile guests, including the UN Secretary General, Mr António Guterres, the President of the African Development Bank, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, among others, would grace the conference.

Mr Kasaija said in the letter that they had cross-checked with the proposed speakers, who feigned ignorance about the conference.

Reports indicate that the conference is being organised by the former director of the PPP unit in the ministry, Ms Beatrice Ikilai, who moonlights as vice chairperson of the Bureau of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

Attempts to reach Ms Ikilai for a comment were futile.

However, the acting director of the PPP unit, Mr Jim Mugunga, yesterday said they were not aware of the conference.

"Rarely does government hold pay-for events, and when they do, there are usually accounts for that money to go back to the Consolidated Fund," Mr Mugunga said in a telephone interview. "We are also just seeing adverts as you do," he said.

Mr Michael Wangusa, the spokesperson for the UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda, said in an email that the UNDP resident representative, as other UN heads of agencies, were only invited to deliver papers at the conference.

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