Mafia have turned NSSF into hunting ground - former boss

Mr Richard Byarugaba. He left NSSF in December at the end of his contract after spending three years at the helm. PHOTO BY GEOFFREY SSERUYANGE

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Claims. Mr Richard Byarugaba says he was naïve to believe that if you try to be straight and engage, you would survive in NSSF.

PARLIAMENT. A former managing director (MD) at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) yesterday revealed that a mafia-like group have turned NSSF into a hunting ground.
Speaking about their shadowy dealings when he appeared before the ongoing House inquiry into suspected irregularities at NSSF, Mr Richard Byarugaba said an official from the Inspectorate of Government (IGG), demanded a Shs1 billion bribe from him in order to write a good report on the Fund.
The former MD also appeared to turn the tables on his former deputy, Ms Geraldine Ssali, and board chairman Ivan Kyayonka when he agreed with workers representatives, who have told the Select Committee on NSSF that no board approval was granted to the multibillion Umeme shares’ deal -- one of the key issues in the present investigation. Both Ms Ssali and Mr Kyayonka say board approval was obtained.
“It’s true the board was not involved because they had allowed us (management) in the first investment policy to proceed with the investment in Umeme,” Mr Byarugaba said.

‘Umeme had debts’
Still on the initial purchase of Umeme shares, Mr Byarugaba confessed how NSSF lacked some information before buying into the company as MPs blamed him for doing little to study the firm where he invested workers money.
“We knew that Umeme had debts, but our due diligence showed that they could manage this and the company was still making money. We thought we could trust them and be able to invest in their company,” Mr Byarugaba said.
Early into his hearing, Mr Byarugaba said during one of the IGG’s investigations into suspected corruption at the Shs4.3 trillion Fund, an inspectorate official he only identified as Jane, approached him and requested a bribe of Shs1 billion and that when he refused to cooperate, they wrote a bad report on NSSF.
“I shared this with my chairman, the deputy IGG and the IGG herself, she knows this individual. Her name is Jane. She is the one who interviewed us,” he said,
Yesterday afternoon, the IGG, Ms Irene Mulyagonja, confirmed the case but said before Mr Byarugaba left NSSF, she had asked him to cooperate with the inspectorate to have Jane [Mpeirwe] caught soliciting the bribe.
“You must catch the person soliciting the bribe. Byarugaba told us about Jane and we asked him to cooperate with us but before we organised to handle the matter, he left NSSF. By the way, this is the same Jane we are prosecuting in the Anti-Corruption Court on a related matter concerning the bribe she solicited from the acting MD of NSSF,” Ms Mulyagonja said.
The IGG said the same Jane was interdicted and is being prosecuted on grounds involving solicitation of a Shs300 million bribe in order to exonerate Ms Ssali from investigations she was carrying out against her. Ms Mpeirwe is jointly charged with her husband, Mr Arthur Mpeirwe, and former Wakiso RDC, Dan Kaguta.
The IGG, however, denied Mr Byarugaba’s claim that “a bad report” was written about NSSF because he refused to cooperate with Jane as baseless.
Complaining how Shs50 billion the Fund spent on a foundation for the stalled Pension Towers, Mr Byarugaba told MPs that there are “faceless mafias” jostling for deals at NSSF. He said they are “very entrenched” to the extent of stealing procurement documents.
“I was naïve to believe that if you try to be straight and engage, you would survive in NSSF. [I didn’t know that] there are mafias, there is a group of people in town who are interested in any construction [deal] that is going to happen, they don’t own construction companies but they are middlemen,” Mr Byarugaba said.
Mr Byarugaba said of the 20 companies that bid for Pension Towers contract, only 10 had the ability to do the work, observing that the rest were middlemen. “They align themselves to the genuine companies/ contractors and try to influence the process,” Mr Byarugaba said.
At pre-qualification stage, Mr Byarugaba said, “It becomes bloody, backstabbing, sending anonymous letters to the Inspectorate of Government, to the managing director; to the minister and to everybody because they want to delay the process.”
When asked by MP Alex Ruhunda (Fort Portal), whether procurement documents have previously been stolen by NSSF officials and passed to rival companies, Mr Byarugaba said: “Definitely the documents can also be stolen and given to rival companies.”
However, when pressed to reveal the faceless mafias, he said: “From the bottom of my heart, I don’t know who these people are. All I know is that they are there, they have camps; write anonymous letters, align to company A and backstab company B. They get the documents of A, analyse them and send letters to PPDA to halt the process”.