NSSF Bleeding as Workers’ Cash is Requisitioned for Ministerial, Board Member’s Programmes

Even after the National Social Security Fund -NSSF’s earnings were badly dented by Covid-19 inspired 20% premature benefits payout that saw annual interest for the first time in a decade dipping to a single-digit percentage, new fears are being raised that the fund is now being forced to use worker’s money to pay for activities a government ministry, and a trade union body closely linked to a board member.

The National Organisation of Trade Unions -NOTU, the apex organisation of workers’ associations has raised the fresh red-flag over what could be siphoning of workers’ cash from the National Social Security Fund, NSSF. 

This comes after information surfaced that the other workers’ group, the Central Organisation of Free Trade Unions, COFTU, has asked the Fund for one billion shillings to fund its activities.

The activities, according to the request include “enhancing awareness and training in financial literacy of Ugandans, enhancing cooperate social responsibility and mobilizing and engaging stakeholders,” among others. 

As if a worker’s union going after workers’ statutory savings for its activities is not alarming enough, the government itself through the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development is said to be requisitioning for six billion shillings for basically similar activities, has raised concern among the workers’ fraternity. It is not clear why the ministry did not budget for its activities to be financed by the Treasury/ Consolidated Fund and instead seek to use workers’ savings from a fund whose profitability has been severely affected in the Covid-19 fallout.

The NOTU Chairman General, Usher Wilson Owere says COFTU Secretary General Sam Lyomoki is taking advantage of the loophole at NSSF that has enabled the MOGLSD to access the money.

Minister Betty Amongi earlier this year requested the NSSF to avail her six billion shillings through the Fund’s 2022/23 budget to allegedly promote its accountability and mobilization of savings. 

Specifically, the funds would be used to “undertake budget monitoring and oversight of the key activities of the fund, diaspora mobilization to facilitate their voluntary savings under the fund, media engagements and benchmarking for skills development,” according to the letter.

Owere says that when then Managing Director, Richard Byarugaba declined the request and notified the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. Owere claims this prompted Amongi to find a way of evicting Byarugaba from office. 

He says that he protested to the Minister on grounds that Byarugaba’s contract was due to end in December and that she could not terminate it. But Minister Amongi has dismissed Owere’s accusation, indicating that he is just an angry man because he has been ejected from  

The request by Amongi has reportedly been included in the budget after a directive by the Acting Managing Director, Patrick Ayota, who was given a new contract as Deputy Managing Director.  

Owere alleges that Amongi also asked workers organisations to write petitions to her alleging corruption against Byarugaba, so as to strengthen the case for his dismissal. Lyomoki’s COFTU was one of those that wrote a petition. 

This, according to Owere, shows that Lyomoki has found a way of accessing NSSF Funds because of his support to the Minister’s efforts against Byarugaba. 

Lyomoki, who is also a member of the Board of Director of NSSF said they have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Fund to “cooperate and work together to increase social security coverage, improve compliance rates for mandatory contributors and empower members,” among others.

He says the money will be for financial literacy activities, upgrading of COFTU Information Management System, mobilizing and engaging stakeholders and corporate and social responsibility and/or investment. 

Owere says that his opposition to these ‘illegal’ activities by the Minister Betty Amongi is the reason NOTU is facing crises. 

A section of NOTU members recently held a meeting and voted to replace Owere as Chairman General accusing him of mismanagement and dictatorship, among others. He now says Minister Amongi is behind these controversies. 

The Minister, in her response to these allegations, indicated that Owere is no longer the rightful leader of NOTU and therefore had no authority to speak for it. 

She admitted meeting with the NOTU leadership section that is opposed to Owere, including one on Wednesday. 

“When you say ‘NOTU’, who are you talking about? First establish who the leadership of NOTU are!” she said, adding that she “chaired a meeting with people who have dislodged him from office, the reason he is annoyed.”

Amongi said the money she requested for was for promoting partnerships between critical agencies like parliament, the Private Sector Foundation Uganda, Uganda Manufacturers Association and labour orgnaisations. 

She is also yet to effect the ‘guidance’ by the Prime Minister that arose from the cabinet subcommittee meeting in which the president told her to see that Amongi reappoints Byarugaba.

Owere says Minister Amongi should be investigated by a presidential team over her alleged activities and influencing resource allocation at the NSSF.

The NSSF Amendment Act 2021 made the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development a co-supervisor of the fund, responsible for management and supervision of social security, while the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development is charged with the supervision of the finances and investments.

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