The Former Managing Director of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Richard Byarugaba has appealed to parliament’s select committee investigating operations of the entity to have him re-appointed as the inquiry goes on.
Byarugaba was on Friday appearing before the select committee to respond to allegations of corruption and mismanagement of the Fund leveled against him by the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Betty Amongi.
The allegations were highlighted in the Minister’s letter to the NSSF Board Chairman, Peter Kimbowa questioning the reappointment of Byarugaba when his contract expired at the end of November 2022.
The NSSF Board had endorsed Byarugaba’s reappointment together with his then Deputy, Patrick Ayota for another five-year term even after they reached the retirement age of 60. As a result, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja asked Amongi to proceed with the appointment “as recommended by the Board to avoid any managerial gaps, which can put the workers’ funds at risk”.
Amongi protested the move and instead called for an investigation into the conduct of the former Managing Director while at the fund. She accused him of among others abuse of office and mismanagement of investments. She directed that investigations be conducted within two months by the Inspectorate of Government and the Auditor General in line with a resolution by the Board of directors.
“It is clear that the Board of Directors of NSSF have exercised their mandate under the law and have recommended my re-appointment and that of the Deputy Managing Director; however, The Minister has abdicated her duties and has acted illegally and with a lot of bias in rejecting my appointment and has opted to appoint the Deputy Managing Director unconditionally,” Byarugaba partly told the select committee.
He said that the reasons enumerated by the Minister while deferring his appointment are based on allegations which are very symptomatic of a breakdown in governance structure of the Fund.
“Surely…a Fund that has been performing so well, how can those allegations be sustained even to a common thinking man on the street? In any case, these allegations cannot even be attributed to me as an individual and would require a thourough review of the legislative governance structure of the Fund,” said Byarugaba.
According to Byarugaba, all these allegations have come up just in less than one year after the amendment of the NSSF Act that allowed the Ministry of Gender to be one of the supervising entities.
He appealed to the committee to avert the damage to the reputation of the Fund, saying that it would be prudent for him to be re-appointed and all investigations go on while in office. He also appealed that parliament re-considers the duo supervision of the Fund by the Ministry of Finance and that of Gender.
Byarugaba recounted the events following his failed re-appointment saying that the Chairman of the NSSF Board on 1st July wrote to the Minister recommended his appointment and the Deputy Managing Director for a three year contract, before the contracts of the two were due to expire.
“However, the Minister in a letter dated the 20th of July wrote appointing only the Deputy Managing Director for one year and noting that she had written to the President consulting that both of us had surpassed our retirement age,” Byarugaba narrated.
He added that Minister Amongi in another letter dated 22nd July 2022 wrote to him directing that he retires on grounds of retirement age and that he hands over to his then NSSF Deputy Managing Director, Patrick Ayota.
In her letter, Amongi directed Byarugaba that effective 26th July 2022, he stops exercising the mandate and functions of the office of Managing Director and that the Deputy Managing Director, who had retired and appointed on contract would act as Managing Director.
“I have already written to His Excellency the President notifying him of the position of the law and seeking his guidance on how to handle your appointment on contract within the law. I will upon receiving evidence of your retirement, take appropriate action,” Amongi wrote.
Byarugaba told the select committee that he accordingly wrote to the Minister indicating his retirement but Amongi never responded. However, the Attorney General who had been copied in an initial letter responded saying that the Standing Orders were not applicable.
President Yoweri Museveni later wrote to Minister Amongi advising that she quietly consult on the manner.
“I have seen your letter appointing Patrick Ayota as Deputy Managing Director of NSSF because we need a new group because the current one have both attained the age of 60. It is better one consults quietly about these appointments before deciding. In the case of NSSF, the present group seems to have done a good job, growing the Fund from 1.6 trillion in 2010 to 17.2 trillion currently. Good performance is not very common in parastatals, where it occurs the actors should be appreciated,” the President wrote in part.
Museveni suggested in the letter that the matter is discussed with the Vice President, Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Attorney General on 20th August. The president then said that they still had time since Byarugaba’s term expiry was on 30th November.
The Chairman of the NSSF Board later recommended for the re-appointment of both Byarugaba and Ayota but Amongi deferred the re-appointment of Byarugaba.
Byarugaba says that these events surrounding his re-appointment point to unfair treatment by Minister Amongi.