NSSF mid-term access rules leak

Finance Minister Matia Kasaija (left) and NSSF managing director Richard Byarugaba during the NSSF members meeting last year. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The long-awaited regulations are expected to be gazetted Friday, this week, and provide, among others, that claimants will be paid 2.5 percent interest for the Financial Year and those with foreign accounts can claim in foreign currency at prevailing exchange rate.

The long-awaited regulations prescribing the procedure for accessing National Social Security Fund (NSSF) mid-term benefits are expected to be gazetted this Friday, with the Fund management saying actual payment could start next Monday.

According to leaked details of the regulations, the Fund plans to pay claimants a 2.5 percent interest for the Financial Year since withdrawals will be made before declaration of its annual interest rate by the line minister, in this case, of Finance.

The Workers’ Fund last year paid members 12.15 percent interest after its income grew by 25 percent to Shs1.8 trillion from the previous financial year, meaning beneficiaries of mid-term access will gain in getting their cash early but lose on interest spin offs.

According to the document, whose contents this newspaper corroborated with officials involved in its development, the actual interest will be calculated on the basis of the balance on the account of a member at the beginning of a Financial Year, less any benefits paid out in the Financial Year.  

Titled The National Social Security Fund (Midterm Access to Benefits) Regulations, 2022, the 13-page document, which is pending Gender and Labour Minister Betty Amongi’s signature, is divided in three parts: preliminary, qualification for midterm benefits and qualification, benefit payment and general provisions.

It prescribes those eligible for mid-term benefits as members aged 45 years or more and have saved for 10 years, or a person with disability and has saved for a decade.

The framers define disability, which should be confirmed through a medical or expert’s report, as “substantial functions limitations of a person’s daily life activities caused by physical, mental or sensory impairment, resulting in limited participation in society on equal basis with others”.

President Museveni signed the NSSF (Amendment) Act, 2021, which Parliament passed last year, in early January and the delay by the minister to release the regulations for access has made workers clamouring for pay and their leaders nervous.

“We want to see workers start accessing their mid-term [cash] because we already made our input a week ago and expect the Honourable Minister [of Gender and Labour] to expedite the release of the regulations,” Mr Usher Owere, chairman general of the National Organisation of Trade Unions (Notu), said.

The deadline for gazetting the regulations, a set of procedures and processes to operationalise provisions of the mother Act, is next Tuesday.

In a brief interview last night, minister Amongi declined to delve into the details of the regulations, saying she plans to address the media about it tomorrow.

“I’m not yet outside the deadline [to gazette the regulations]; I’m still within the law,” she said.

Details in the prepared regulations show that eligible members will have to fill a form to apply for midterm access, attach one current photograph, present either the national identity card, or where applicable, an alien identification, refugee or asylum seeker document.

They must also indicate if they prefer to be paid through a bank or mobile money, and those with foreign bank accounts can elect to be paid in foreign currency at prevailing exchange rates.

Those who prefer bank transfers will be required to present proof of a bank account, which includes either a bank slip, or a 1-page bank statement for any of the past three months, or a confirmation letter from the bank holding the claimant’s account.

Mr Richard Byarugaba, the NSSF managing director, last night said that they are ready to start effecting payment to claimants, which grosses Shs1t, as early as next Monday, if the regulations are gazetted this Friday.

“We have been preparing and we are all set. We would do our best to pay them,” he said by telephone.

The application form for mid-term access, whose legislation was preceded by rancorous debate between savers and management, has provisions that indemnify the Fund against losses occasioned to beneficiaries through PIN code breaches, submission of wrong mobile money-registered numbers, forgeries and transaction charges by third-party service providers.

The regulations also prescribe prosecution of beneficiaries who submit false information to the Fund.
In addition, the rules provide that all mid-term claims, and payments, will be transacted within working hours; 8am-5pm, Monday to Friday, excluding public holiday.

Individuals planning to submit the applications in person, rather than email it to [email protected], will have to present the originals of their identification document for comparison and verification with submitted photocopies.

A would-be beneficiary whose disability impairs them to thump-print or fill the form can assign another person to fill the form on their behalf, and present officially-authenticated ID as proof instead of a signature.  

According to the regulations, a claimant whose claim is rejected can, within 30 days from the date of the rejection, appeal in writing with reasons to NSSF managing director, who is obliged to determine the appeal and communicate a decision in writing with accompanying reasons.