NSSF waiting on minister, ready to pay Shs1 trillion

A photo combo showing NSSF boss Richard Byarugaba (left) and minister Betty Amongi (right). PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The law provides that once the President assents to the Bill, the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development has to come up with a statutory instrument to drive the process forward.

The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) says the minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, is stalling any plans to pay savers eligible for mid-term access their savings under the provisions of the National Social Security Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
Mr Richard Byarugaba, the NSSF managing director, told Sunday Monitor on Friday that the ministry is yet to issue a statutory instrument.

“The truth of the matter is that it depends on the minister issuing the instrument. Technically, we are ready, but she [Ms Betty Amongi] hasn’t issued the instrument. So as soon as she does that, we will start (paying those eligible for access to savings),” Mr Byarugaba said.

The Bill
The Bill, which was passed by Parliament on November 24 last year, provides for mid-term access to the tune of 20 percent of savings for savers above 45 years. These savers, though, ought to have saved with NSSF for 10 years and more. Under the same law, persons with disabilities (PWDs), who have saved with the Fund for more than 10 years, can have access to up to 50 percent of their accrued savings.

The law further provides that once the President assents to the Bill, the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development has to come up with a statutory instrument to drive the process forward.
“This Act shall come into force upon publication in the Gazette, except for Section 24A, which shall come into force on a date to be appointed by the minister by statutory instrument on the advice of the board,” the Bill reads in part.

The minister has a 60-day window in which to come up with the said instrument. The countdown begins on the day the President assents to the law. 
Given that Mr Museveni signed the Bill into law on January 4, it means Minister Amongi has less than a fortnight to come up with the instrument. 

The 60-day period elapses on March 5.
Efforts to talk to Ms Amongi proved futile by press time, but the Permanent Secretary in her ministry—Mr Aggrey Kibenge—told Sunday Monitor that work on the statutory instrument was ongoing.
Mr Kibenge, who defended the ministry officials against accusations of foot dragging on a matter causing anxiety to interested savers, expressed optimism that the instrument would be delivered in time.

“There are several processes that the statutory instrument goes through. It is not something you sit on your desk, write and issue the following day. It is a legal document so it must be taken through a number of processes before it is ready. But we are confident that we are on course and will beat the [deadline],” Mr Kibenge told Sunday Monitor.
Unverified reports indicate that whereas the ministry had come up with an instrument as early as the second week of January, the document had to be shared with the offices of the Solicitor General and the Attorney General for counsel. 

The 1995 constitution mandates the Attorney General to give his opinion and advice in respect to all contracts, agreements, treaties, conventions or any document to which the government is a party.
The Solicitor General also plays a similar function in cases where the Attorney General is unable or even indisposed. 
The Attorney General could also authorise the Solicitor General to do so. 

Sunday Monitor was unable to establish why the two offices had to look at the same document. 
Mr Kibenge declined to be drawn into discussing the matter.
“The most important thing is that NSSF is ready to pay because you could finish the legal document and then they tell you that the system on the other side is not ready to pay, which is a bigger problem. So it’s good to hear that the systems are ready. We are within the time provided so there is no reason to worry,” Mr Kibenge said.

According to Mr Byarugaba, the 20 percent will be calculated based on the savings at the time at which the statutory instrument shall be issued. 
Those who become eligible for access to some of their savings at subsequent times will also have their dues calculated based on what they have as and when they become eligible.
Mr Byarugaba has in the meantime said disbursement of the funds will be effected through both banks and mobile money for savers with small packages. 
The Fund will bear the costs of the mobile money transactions. 

Mr Byarugaba, while speaking at the annual seminar for the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Entebbe in December, said NSSF would be paying at least Shs1 trillion to 113,000 savers, who are eligible for mid-term access. 
The number of additional savers who have become eligible for the said money since the year began is unclear.