The chairperson National Organisation of Trade Unions, Mr Usher Wilson Owere, yesterday accused officials from the Ministry of Finance of planning to disband the workers savings scheme, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).
Speaking on behalf of the workers at the National Labour Day celebrations in Rubaare, Rushenyi in Ntungamo District, Mr Owere warned that the move will call for industrial action.
“The workers of Uganda have requested me to report to you that there are two senior officials in the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development who are hatching a plan of disbanding NSSF through liberalisation of the pension sectors,” he said.
Mr Owere said what they are planning to do has never worked anywhere in the world. “We have resolved to reform the sector and amend the NSSF Act. We would like to warn that should their position not change, it will call for an industrial action,” Mr Owere said.
Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi, however, yesterday told off those complaining, saying the Bill is already in Parliament and nothing much can be done.
“Our Bill is very clear and it is in Parliament, I cannot say much right now,” he said. “We are not against NSSF, but rather saying the pension sector needs to be liberalised; opened up, that is all.”
But Mr Owere argued that the performance of NSSF had greatly improved, saying it now takes 10 days for a worker who is a member, to get benefits from the date of application. He said the funds of the workers are very safe and that the interest rate NSSF provides on members’ savings is higher than that offered by banks.
Mr Owere also said the ministry has hired wrong people on the Board of Uganda Benefits and Regulatory Authority (UBRA). He particularly pointed out the appointment of former Commissioner in Charge of Pensions, Mr Stephen Kiwanuka-Kunsa, to head the Authority, questioning the indiviadual’s past record at the Public Service ministry.
“We therefore request that this Board should be disbanded with immediate effect given that the members are not of integrity and the new board must include the workers and therefore this calls for review of UBRA Act,” Mr Owere said.
In 2003, Mr Kunsa was sponsored by the World Bank to lead the 10-year implementation plan of pension reforms in the country.
He was trained along with two other officials from the Ministry of Public Service Mr Christopher Obey, then principal accountant pension and Mr Francis Lubega, the head of Information Technology pension, but they were all interdicted in 2012 over the grand theft of up to Shs165 billion in the ghost pension saga, bringing the plan to a standstill.
Attempts to reach Mr Kunsa was futile by press time as his known phone number was switched off.
Mr Owere also took a swipe at the Ministry of Education for refusing to transfer teachers’ money to the Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu) Sacco. “We have learnt, Your Excellency, that the ministry wants to contract a fund manager at a cost of Shs500 million to manage the money. This is going to erode the savings of the teachers which tantamount to corruption,” he said.
President Museveni in 2012 pledged Shs5 billion to the teachers Sacco. The money is supposed to be released every year for a period of five years.
Mr James Tweheyo, the Unatu general secretary, said the Shs5 billion for 2014 has already been released to the ministry of Education to be sent to the teachers’ Sacco, but it is not forth coming. He said the money should be transferred to Unatu Sacco, saying they have the skills, capacity and integrity required to manage the fund.
President Museveni, to whom these workers’ concerns were addressed, said: “Mr Owere, unlike these other groups who cause trouble, is a good man; we shall sit down and talk”.
The Education ministry Permanent Secretary, Dr Rose Nassali Lukwago, yesterday said: “The update on the Sacco is that we wrote to the Solicitor General to help us explore all angles on the distribution of the money and he is yet to respond.”
“Everything will be done in the most transparent manner.”
The chairperson National Organisation of Trade Unions, Mr Usher Wilson Owere, commended Gender ministry Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana for resolving workers concerns on the Industrial Court by helping make it functional. He also thanked Mr Frank Tumwebaze, the Presidency minister, for helping resolve the teachers’ stalemate and averting a strike.
About the Bill
The Bill was envisaged to include the private sector in the pension operations and also provide workers with several options to save for their retirement other than NSSF.
NSSF currently enjoys monopoly over the Shs4 trillion workers’ savings and invests it where necessary. But under the new Bill, fund managers will make the decision without any worker’s input.
But according to the NSSF Act, workers are represented in the governance of their money and have a say where it is invested.
List of persons awarded at National Labour Day celebrations
Haji Mustafa Katumba
John Patrict Katabazi
Hajji Kassim Murekura
George wood Rwentaro
Wamala James Tekabagire
Golden Jubilee medalists
Charles Rutaro Kwehangana
Rev Can William Ganafa
Hajji Suleiman Byekwaso
Sheikh Kaduyu Abdulnoor