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106-year-old man chases pension for 28 years in vain

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Mr Dacio Oridria (sitting), reported to be 106 years old, says he has never received his pension. PHOTO/CLEMENT ALUMA

Wheelchair-bound Dacio Oridria, who is reportedly 106 years old, has for the last 28 years struggled to secure his pension in vain. 

Having worked hard as a civil servant to secure his present years of life, he got a raw deal from the government he served so diligently.

He is the only one remaining of 10 children of Kamure Nia and Anua Azakaru of the Onzoro Yaa Clan in Millo Village, Onjoro Parish, Aiivu Sub-county in Terego District.

He was first taken away from his mother to be dedicated to the clan. He was reportedly baptised in the Catholic Church in 1940 at Ediofe Cathedral. 

In 1943, he joined Ndiria Elementary School where his exceptional abilities were easily noticed in 1944 by the White Fathers, who recruited him to join Lacor Minor Seminary in Gulu District. 

While in Lacor, his colleagues nicknamed him “Natural” because of his exceptional talents in sports and class.
In 1947, he fell sick while in the seminary and the body failed to respond to all kinds of treatment. 

It was at this time that the seminary’s spiritual director at the time asked him to return home.It is reported that the entire student population thought their best student had been dismissed and wanted to riot, only to be told that it was in his best interest.

After healing, he was recruited as clerk by Fr Tarcisio Agostoni of Comboni Missionaries at Ediofe where he worked for a short time and was sent to Nyapea College to complete his Advanced Level.  

His posting as a teacher
Oridria’s abilities to teach earned him his first posting as a teacher at Teremunga Primary School even when he was not qualified to teach.  

In 1955, he enrolled at Ngora Institute to become a professional Grade III teacher, which course he completed in 1957.  

After completion, he went into private work until he returned in 1963 and was posted to Micu Primary School. 
In 1966, he was transferred to Ajono Primary School in Vurra County, Arua District as head teacher.

In 1968, he turned down an opportunity to become an assistant district education officer for Arua because he felt it was far from his home district, Terego.  He was then posted to teach at Oriajini and Adu primary schools in Terego District. 

However, the 1979 war that led to the overthrow of Idi Amin government interrupted his career. He was forced to seek refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then referred to as Zaire).

Due to his passion for education, even in the refugee camps in Zaire, he continued to teach at Liku-Liku and Awaa schools where he taught the English language.

When the war in Uganda ended, he returned home and continued with his teaching profession before retiring on March 31, 1996, at Ndiria Primary School. 

This is where the quest for his pension started. He says the chase has been a living hell for him. 
He says one of his sons, who was constantly following up the payments, passed on in 2010 without leaving behind any copy of the file, which has made tracing it cumbersome. 

His son-in-law, Mr Bob Simon Wikole, says they looked for the file in his documents in vain. 
“Before his son passed away, he told us that the Ministry of Public Service officials had told him that he should go home and expect the money in his account soon,” he says.

The family says they have knocked on doors at various offices in vain.

An officer at the Human Resource Office in Arua District, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the media, says they need to start from somewhere if they are to follow up the matter.
“We need to start with at least something, an appointment letter, an identity card, or any other relevant document.

In this way, we will be able to help him and trace the old documents that he submitted,” he says.

Pension outlook
The government has in the past been rocked by pension scandals where billions of money did not reach intended beneficiaries.

According to the 2013/14 and 2014/15 Auditor General reports, Shs12.7 billion and Shs11 billion were paid to claimants without proof of life certificates, respectively.   

For 2019/2020 Financial Year, the Auditor General, Mr John Muwanga, said of 174 Local Governments, 11 had not paid pension and gratuity to pensioners, accumulating pension and gratuity arrears to the tune of Shs5.8 billion.

In 2022, the Auditor General Report indicated that about 1,000 pensioners were not paid. And this amounted to Shs1.3 billion. 

The non-payment is despite the files of many retired personnel lying idle either at the districts or ministry offices. 

The Auditor General on Monday announced a special audit on the pension and gratuity management processes, which will include the headcount of pensioners in the country. 

In their public notice, they said following the request from the Finance ministry, they embarked on the exercise aimed at “establishing the effectiveness” of the processes and “recommend remedial measures.”

Specifically, the Auditor General said their auditors would establish whether bonafide pensioners are on the payroll and are being paid the right rates. 

Through this audit, the Auditor General said he would also validate and confirm the numbers and retirement benefits, provide “input in establishing a comprehensive database for Government of Uganda pensioners,” and “make a projection of the gratuity and pension bill for the 2024/2025 financial year including accumulated arrears.” 

“The Office of the Auditor General is currently undertaking review and analysis of documents to understand the Pension and Gratuity Payroll management processes and obtain evidence to support findings and conclusions,” the notice read in part.

Among the documents being reviewed are the entity pension payroll and gratuity payments, pensioners’ lists, payment files, pensioners’ personal files, and budgets and work plans, among others.

After the review and analysis (Phase I), which will be completed by the end of May 2024, the Auditor General says there would be a Phase II where “a physical headcount of pensioners will be conducted on dates to be communicated”.

After the review and analysis (Phase I), which will be completed by the end of May 2024, the Auditor General says there would be a Phase II where “a physical headcount of pensioners will be conducted on dates to be communicated”.

The categories of pensioners to be validated include pensioners/beneficiaries who are on the payroll, and pensioners not on the payroll but have been verified as legitimate pensioners by the former employer.