Lucas Omara Abong, 2002 graduate of the Program on Fiscal Decentralization and Local Government Financial Management at the Duke Center for International Development (DCID), was appointed Secretary and CEO of the Uganda Law Reform Commission last June.
The commission was established under the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda to study and constantly review the country’s laws to make recommendations for their improvement, development, modernization and reform.
Among the items on its agenda for 2014 are a thorough review and possible reform of the legislation governing witness protection, electoral laws, and the registration of births and deaths to facilitate the creation of a reliable national databank.
“Our method of work is collaborative. We constitute task forces or working groups from public, private and civil society sectors,” Abong said. “We also organize validation exercises by key stakeholders of the recommendations for reform that we make before submitting final positions."
Prior to his work with the commission, Abong served as Deputy Secretary of the Local Government Finance Commission from June 1998 to March 2011. This commission is primarily responsible for providing advice on financing the country’s local governments. Abong’s role with the commission related to planning, monitoring, human resource management, reporting and administration.
It was during his time with the Local Government Finance Commission that he enrolled in the fiscal decentralization program at Duke.
“The program was immensely helpful in my work because it broadened my appreciation and understanding of the principles and dynamics around fiscal decentralization,” he said. “I was privileged to learn directly from some of the most wonderful, grounded and experienced faculty in matters of public policy and governance.”
Abong also served as Company Secretary with Posta Uganda, the country’s postal service, between April 2011 and June 2013. His major contribution was to mainstream good corporate governance practices in the company, especially related to risk management, reporting and accountability.
Abong, a professional lawyer, received his law degree from Makerere University, the largest university in Uganda and one of the most prestigious universities in Africa.
Frustrated by the development challenges Uganda was facing, Abong became increasingly interested in applying his legal background to policymaking.
“Over time Uganda has churned out technically plausible policies, but implementation has remained a major challenge,” he said. “The failure to undertake sustainable development initiatives relates to poor policy formulation and implementation.”
Since that time, Abong has attended many courses on management, fiscal decentralization, development administration, project management and corporate governance.
Although he recognizes that Uganda faces a number of hurdles in its path to development, he is optimistic that many of the changes being put in place by organizations like the Law Reform Commission will set it on a better course.
“Uganda should find its rightful place within the comity of nations by entrenching rule of law that responds to the socio-economic needs of the people of Uganda,” he said. “Economic growth must, to the greatest extent, be made to create equitable access to opportunities.”