A cross section of Ugandans have slammed Gender Minister Betty Amongi for trying to use the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) as a government support fund, with some worried that their savings are no longer safe given the alleged political interference in the running of the Fund.
In a series of social media posts, several NSSF savers reacted with consternation to Amongi’s December 7, 2022 letter to the NSSF Board, justifying that Richard Byarugaba’s contract as the Fund’s Managing Director not be renewed owing to his alleged refusal to support her proposal to invest workers’ savings in government proposals.
They also accused the minister of basing on “unfounded” allegations of corruption against Byarugaba to defer her reappointment.
One of the proposals in Amongi’s letter was the government’s strategic investment through the grain council as proposed by the coordinator of the operation wealth creation, Gen Salim Saleh.
Amongi in the letter accuses Byarugaba of dragging to decide on the matter.
In the letter, Amongi also says NSSF should support the country’s third National Development Plan (NDP III).
But the savers have said the future of NSSF is bleak, saying that government is trying to access the NSSF cash for their own selfish interests, with some calling for immediate withdrawal of their money.
“Interesting reading Uganda Labour and Social Devt minister Amongi Betty Ongom’s letter about the National Social Security Fund. Seems there’s an expectation that NSSF will solve all of Uganda’s problems. The only thing it isn’t expected to do is develop a vaccine for malaria,” Charles Onyango Obbo, journalist tweeted.
Tony Otoa, the Stanbic Business Incubator Ltd’s Executive Director, slammed the Workers Union representatives for looking on amid the mess at NSSF.
“What bothers me is the fact the the so called Workers Union representatives and Worker’s Members of Parliament are mute about the NSFF impasse. Workers deserve better representation ASAP. Workers Unite,” he tweeted.
Opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye said: “I’ve read a 19 page missive from Minister Amongi to NSSF Board Chairman on why reappointment of NSSF MD is stopped. The letter shows that it followed a meeting at Gen Saleh’s Kapeeka home. It’s clear MD Byarugaba lost “support” of Saleh & Mr M7 for defying their directives!”
Hillary Bamulinde, a development consultant, said: “Current NSSF shenanigans can only mean a lot of goodwill built over the years, which attracted many voluntary savers will be lost. Many will seek alternative investment avenues. As a country, we’re really good at self sabotage.”
Former Makerere VC Prof Venansius Baryamureeba tweeted: “This country… why fight performers with mere allegations. By the time we wake up Richard will be working with an international institution where he will be earning 5 times what he was being paid at NSSF. NSSF shavers shall be the ultimate losers.”
Former Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Wafula Oguttu tweeted: ”Workers of Uganda , wake up ,unite and protect your NSSF savings, defend fighter, MD, Richard Byarugaba and call out the mafia that is scheming to deep dirty their hands into your money.”
Dr Sarah Bireete tweeted: “NSSF is the wealthiest provident fund in East Africa with 17.9 trillion, but unprincipled political interference is threatening the trust and reputation of the fund.”
Jimmy Kiberu said: “Pity savers. With what’s going on, the politicisation of the fund, trust will vanish as fast as hard earned workers savings. What’s this ungazetted OWC got to do with NSSF savings? People making decisions have no contribution to the savings who’s investment they want to dictate.”
But last week Finance Minister, Matia Kasaijja assured savers that all is well at NSSF.
He told journalists at the government-owned media centre that the NSSF investigations are a normal process that takes place in all entities.
“Such investigations take place everywhere, and probing is not criminalization so there is no cause for alarm for whatever reason because your money is still intact and safe,” Kasaijja said. He said that his ministry agrees with the efforts of the MGLSD for the re-orientation of NSSF, such that it can expand its membership, and ensure more compliance.
On her part, Amongi said that MSLD has already submitted all the relevant documentation to the IGG and the Auditor General to facilitate the investigations.
“The operations at NSSF are going on normally, and nothing has changed except that there are investigations about the former MD, whose outcome is not yet even known at the moment. So fellow Ugandans do not panic, we are doing the right thing and protecting your money,” said Amongi.
According to Amongi, the outcome of the investigations will only determine the managerial agenda, but not the operations of the fund, which involve paying out benefits and investments.
Martin Nsubuga, the Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Retirements Benefits Regulatory Authority, said that as the sector regulators, they are closely following the events at the fund with the interest of protecting the members’ interests.
The NSSF Deputy Managing Director, Patrick Ayota, said that members are free to apply for their benefits as and when they need them as it has always been done and they will receive them in time.
“Our operations are going on very well, and we have so far paid up to 13 billion Shillings this month, both in midterm access and the matured benefits.”