Wednesday September 3 2014

I am under pressure over NSSF jobs- minister

Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka

Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka 

By Yasiin Mugerwa

Finance minister Maria Kiwanuka yesterday said unnamed people have placed her under intolerable pressure to appoint “a, b, c, d” as top managers of the Shs4.3 trillion National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

Ms Kiwanuka told the ongoing parliamentary inquiry into the Fund that she sent a list of names to Bank of Uganda (BoU) for further scrutiny on Monday.

The minister, who came under a barrage of questions after she failed to satisfy MPs with her responses, also said she has asked the Auditor General to conduct a wide-ranging forensic audit into the operations of the Fund covering the last 15 years.
The Auditor General, Mr John Muwanga, confirmed the minister’s request for a forensic audit into NSSF operations.

Ms Kiwanuka told the MPs investigating suspected indiscretions in the purchase of Umeme shares, nepotism and corruption in the recruitment and disposal of assets that the current situation at NSSF is “fluid”. She said the Auditor General’s findings on disputed investments such as Pension Towers, Lubowa estates, Temangalo land, among others, will be used as “baseline” for the incoming management.

The MPs, however, questioned the minister’s decision to forward the names to an institution that does not legally supervise the Fund. The MPs said the NSSF Act does allow BoU to carry out due diligence and accused the minister of playing hide and seek on a matter of national importance.

The MPs noted that for eight months, the Fund has “wobbled” without a substantive managing director, deputy managing director and a corporation secretary even after the board and PricewaterhouseCoopers interviewed prospective candidates and sent names to the minister four months ago.

Minister’s response
She also denied suggestions that she has quietly asked a UK firm, Executives in Africa, to recruit managers at the Fund.
“I have been consulting Bank of Uganda for a month and I have forwarded the names to help me conduct the due diligence because NSSF deserves the best and we will put all the safeguards necessary to ensure the Fund becomes safe, efficient and profitable,” Ms Kiwanuka said.

“Due diligence is a practice of BoU on all financial institutions. We are near the end of the process; we will have those positions filled and no more extensions.”

BoU’s director of communications Christine Alupo didn’t respond to calls yesterday when contacted to confirm the new development. While it’s not clear whether new names were added on the list sent by NSSF board, the minister said if BoU finds the candidates unfit for the NSSF job, her hands will be tied.

Workers MP Sam Lyomoki, who led a team from the Central Organisation of Free Trade Unions to the inquiry, said the President had instructed the minister to follow procedures and avoid tribal sentiments. The minister, however, said she couldn’t disclose what she discussed with the President.

on BOU, UMEME shares
On why she forwarded the names to BoU even after she discussed the qualifications with the board, the minister said NSSF is a financial institution and that like the banks, the managing director of NSSF and other top managers must meet the necessary qualifications and that the due diligence must be done by a government institution.

On the disputed Umeme shares’ transaction, the minister said after she received a report from NSSF board chairman Ivan Kyayonka, she advised that the planned investment be evaluated by an independent financial expert. The minister also refuted claims that Mr Kyayonka is her husband’s business partner. But she admitted that Mr Kyayonka is a friend to her husband but without any business dealings.