It baffles workers and the country as a whole to hear that a pro-people Bill that seeks to amend the NSSF Act Cap 222 and provide for midterm benefits to distressed members, can be left in limbo for all these months.
For all the right reasons, the government supports midterm access where savers aged above 45 and have saved for at least 10 years, should be allowed to access a certain percentage of their benefits. The joint committee had proposed 20 per cent even as government pushes NSSF board to decide the percentage.
We don’t think it’s a judicious decision to involve the board in matters of midterm benefits. Parliament should not allow the NSSF board to fix the percentage for midterm access. This is a matter of Parliament. The fraction must be fixed within the NSSF law to cushion savers from any form of manipulation.
The proposal that a person with a disability who lacks gainful employment or fails to generate income and unable to make contributions to the Fund for a period of not less than one year should access up to 75 per cent of their contributions upon application is good. The percentage can still be harmonised without being dramatic. The Speaker can use “those in favour say Aye and those against No” to break the deadlock.
In the minority report, Kenneth Lubogo (Bulamogi) proposed that members who lose their employment and remain unemployed for a period of not less than three years should upon application be entitled to 40 per cent of the balance on the member’s account.
We understand MPs have failed to agree on the group of people and percentage that should be availed under the midterm access window. But these disagreements are trivial and shouldn’t in any way clutter the bigger picture. We believe the lawmakers are not oblivious to realising the need to quickly resolve their differences on a Bill that directly speaks to the distress of Ugandans and cushions families from the dire consequences of Covid-19 pandemic.
We would like to appeal to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, Leader of Government Business, Leader of Opposition, Chief Whips [NRM and Opposition] and members to bury their differences and fast-track the passing of NSSF Bill. This Bill must be prioritised as a matter of urgency and any attempts to derail the process must be condemned in public interest. The procrastination on either side must stop.
Attempts to maintain the status quo of waiting until the age of 50 years must be rejected. If the owners of the money and NSSF managers have no problem with midterm benefits in the law, then, would MPs impose the status quo on the people of Uganda? We cannot condone situations where deserving people are left to die of hunger yet they have savings.