Hon. Amongi, I have some questions about the things going on at NSSF

Author: Daniel K Kalinaki. PHOTO/FILE. 

What you need to know:

  • In a spirit of transparency, will the Minister consider it fit to declare how much skin she – and the rest of officials making decisions on behalf of the Fund – have in the game by making public the quantum of their savings in NSSF?

The whiff of mischief arising from within and around the National Social Security Fund refuses to go away. There are two flavours to it. The first is a long laundry list of alleged bad investments, expenditures and inflated prices submitted by some petitioners to the Inspector General of Government.

These are under investigation; sooner or later the truth will be winnowed out from the chaff. Hopefully accountability will follow and any malpractice punished.

The second is an attempt to carve Shs6 billion out of the NSSF budget to pay for so-called “strategic initiatives”. Such is the thickness of the fog on this one that Betty Amongi, the responsible line minister, felt the need to address a press conference on Wednesday and issue a statement to defend the expenditure.

Unfortunately, the minister’s explanation raised more questions than it answered. And since she holds effective sway over NSSF any investigation of the claims cannot be expected from within the Fund, the board she appoints, or from her peers in Cabinet. It must come from the Fund members and savers. Your humble columnist would like to go first and request for some clarification on a few questions.

The first of the minister’s five “strategic initiatives” presented to justify the Shs6bn was to establish an online whistleblowing system to report non-compliant employers. Would the Hon. Minister kindly explain how this would be different from the online whistleblowing system NSSF launched in January 2017?

The second, third and fourth initiatives seek to drive “mass registration” of employers and employees, “mandatory registration by undertaking compulsory registration”, and “follow up with enforcement” respectively in different job industries.

Expanding registration is something the Fund has been doing over the past decade, at great expense, and the number of savers and contributions have been growing in tandem. Will the Hon. Minister kindly explain what is strategic about this new strategic initiative and confirm that the NSSF budget does not already have similar expenditures?

The fifth initiative – “strengthening collaboration with other stakeholders” lists several entities that NSSF intends to work more closely with, including URA, UIA, Federation of Uganda Employers, Private Sector Foundation, etc. Will the Hon. Minister kindly make public the memoranda of understanding signed with these different entities and show their respective roles and financial contributions to this partnership?

While at it would it please the Hon. Minister to shed light on reports that NSSF has earmarked, as part of the Shs6bn, at least Shs600 million to be given annually to the Central Organisation of Free Trade Unions (Coftu)? Has the minister signed off on the allocation of an additional Shs50 million for a “strategic retreat” (that word, again) of the top Coftu leadership to “build consensus and understand the workings of the cooperation” with NSSF? If time allows responses to the following follow-on questions would be useful. If there is no consensus among the top leadership of the union and if they do not understand the cooperation, why has NSSF already paid them Shs300million of our money?

One of the top leaders of Coftu, Dr Sam Lyomoki, was appointed to the NSSF board of directors not long before this cooperation was signed. Can the Hon. Minister confirm and present evidence to show that a no-conflict-of-interest assessment was made in approving this transaction?

Can the Hon. Minister confirm that public procurement rules were complied with fully in sourcing Coftu as a vendor of these services and that there is value for money and clearly deliverable targets?

Will the minister confirm which other trade unions NSSF has entered into such collaborations with and make public the memoranda of understanding, including how much money the Fund has spent and intends to spend on them, and for what activities? Will the Hon. Minister be willing to allow for an independent investigation into these and any similar transactions at the Fund to confirm whether the highest standards of good corporate governance have been upheld under her watch?

Finally, in a spirit of transparency, will the Minister consider it fit to declare how much skin she – and the rest of officials making decisions on behalf of the Fund – have in the game by making public the quantum of their savings in NSSF?

On my behalf, on that of my two regular Ugandan readers, and on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of NSSF savers watching this elephantine fight, I thank you.

Mr Kalinaki is a journalist and poor man’s freedom fighter. 

Twitter: @Kalinaki