By Peter Ogwang
There has been a lot of mixed reaction about President YK Museveni’s new cabinet and in particular the choice of the Prime Minister (that is Hon Robinah Nabbanja).
For some of us who have had an opportunity to know and work with Nabbanja, we can authoritatively affirm that the Prime Minister designate is a well grounded and result oriented leader who could follow the footsteps of the late Joseph Magufuli. I have known Hon Nabbanja for more than 10years now, having first met around 2010 in Busia district where she was the RDC during the by-election in Samia-Bugwe North.
At that time, I was working at State House on the youth desk before eventually joining elective politics in 2011. While serving as Busia RDC, Nabbanja was well grounded; she had moved the entire district monitoring government programs and she was so close to the people. The people of Busia loved her for being an action-oriented leader who did not tolerate non-compliance and lamentations. This has remained one of her outstanding attributes to date. She identifies a problem and gives a solution. That is the Nabbanja I know! When I was elected as Eastern Youth MP in 2011, Nabbanja was also voted as Kibaale Woman MP in the 9th Parliament.
In the NRM caucus, Nabbanja was elected as the Party Treasurer. It is during her time that accountability was to the dot. Nabbanja would present accountability reports to the caucus in every meeting. I stand to be corrected if there is any NRM Party Treasurer who matched her work rate in as far as accountability and transparency is concerned. That is the Nabbanja I know!
While in the 9th Parliament, Hon Nabbanja joined the Parliamentary Committee on Physical Infrastructure. This move was not for showbiz, but to bring services closer to her people in Kibaale (now Kakumiro). It was at a time when tarmac roads were so scarce in the district. It was the order of the day that trucks carrying merchandise would get stuck on the bad roads especially during rainy season. Nabbanja would then use her parliamentary position to mobilize communities and fuel graders to work on their roads. That was when she was nicknamed “Majegere” a codename she proudly carries up to date. She remains a celebrated icon in Bunyoro and other parts of the country because of her ability to identify a problem, engage the communities to solve a particular problem. If Tanzania had a bulldozer in late Magufuli, Uganda has a majegere in Nabbanja as Prime Minister. Uganda needs problem solvers, not lamenters. That is the Nabbanja I know!
Nabbanja is a well groomed NRM cadre who supports the Party with all her might. Even when the Party was faced by some internal contradictions in the 9th parliament where one of our senior leaders opted to contest against our revolutionary leader, we worked so closely with Nabbanja and the then Government Chief Whip Hon Kasule Lumumba to ensure that the bigger interests of the party are preserved and protected. She remained so open, transparent and supportive to the party struggle. I worked tooth and nail with her (Nabbanja) plus other comrades such as Hon Obua, Hon Tumwebaze, Hon Anite, Hon Rwakajara and many others. That is the Nabbanja I know!
Just when I thought I had learnt much about Hon Nabbanja, God gave me another chance to exploit her potential even more when we were both elected to the 10th Parliament. It was in the 10th Parliament that I was privileged to work with Nabbanja and Rwakajara as parliamentary commissioners and I thank the President and Party for endorsing me to this position. Without fear of any contradiction, I would like to boast that it was indeed during our tenure as commissioners that MPs’ and staff welfare was catered for to the maximum in line with the available budgetary allocation.
During our service in the parliamentary commission, Hon Nabbanja chaired the Audit committee of the Commission. She transformed the Commission for the best and her legacy has left a robust audit system in Parliament. First, it is Nabbanja who made a proposal that the internal audits be discussed by the commission, not by the top management as it had been the case in contrary with the Administration of Parliament Act.
For the first time, it was during Nabbanja’s reign as chairperson of the Audit Committee of the Commission, that all internal audit recommendations were discussed at the commission level and it has remained so up to date. It is also Nabbanja who proposed that a subcommittee of the Audit Committee be constituted to scrutinize the recommendations of the internal auditors before external auditors interface with the recommendations. This was to ensure that all recommendations passed by the Commission are not tempered or altered, thus building an incorruptible audit system. That is the Nabbanja I know!
This Audit Committee made several recommendations to the Commission and also unearthed irregularities on public funds which prompted the commission to take harsh actions against the officials who were not following strict financial management policies. Nabbanja is one who enforces compliance. I remember during our time in the commission, we forced several Members of Parliament and staff to refund monies taken as travel allowances for trips that they did not take. Auditor General’s reports can adduce this fact.
There is no doubt that the Prime Minister designate will enforce value for money for most of government projects. So there is no doubt that the country has got a capable Prime Minister who has risen from a humble background, and is knowledgeable about underlying challenges of the local person. Gone are the times when we needed a professor or doctorate holder to be Prime Minister. In such times when we are grappling with corruption, abuse of office and high poverty levels, we need a field-based and not office-based Prime Minister who will effectively coordinate and implement government policies across MDAs and other public institutions as enshrined in Article 108A of the Constitution of Uganda. That is the Nabbanja I know!
Nabbanja is a no-nonsense person; she is hardworking, practical and a good mobiliser with strong desires to serve interests of the common man. I strongly doubt that in her era, the challenge of absenteeism of ministers on the floor of parliament will be tolerated. I vividly recall recently when I was chairing an informal meeting and Hon Nabbanja kept ‘disrupting’ saying, “I have a burning issue to raise and I must be given a chance to say what I want to say or else I will walk out of this meeting.” And indeed, her submission changed the entire discussion of the meeting and gave it a clear direction.
I therefore appeal to the general public to support the Prime Minister and Vice president designate and all other ministers appointed. Let us give a benefit of doubt to the new Prime Minister designate because for over 10years, I have known her as a formidable force that we should reckon with in enforcing compliance, coordination and monitoring of government business.
The writer is the State Minister for Economic Monitoring (Designate)