National Social Security Managing Director, Patrick Ayota on Thursday asked the court to exercise its discretion in the interest of justice to favor the stability of the fund.
He told the High Court Civil Division that it should guard against what he described as “unmeritorious cries of a single disgruntled person whose recommendation was rejected based on sound, cogent reasons”
Ayota further stated that the 18 trillion shilling fund is at risk of misuse and stagnation and warned that it would be against the public interest for the fund to go without strategic leadership.
He appeared before Judge, Musa Sekaana in relation to a suit filed by his predecessor, Richard Byarugaba who has been fighting to reclaim his job at NSSF.
Ayota swore a 38-paragraph affidavit drawn by Kampala Associated Advocates in which he defended the Gender, Labor, and Social Development Minister, Betty Amongi for appointing him as NSSF Managing to replace Byarugaba whose contract had expired.
In August 2023, Byarugaba filed a petition against the Attorney General and Amongi, seeking court orders for Amongi to fulfill her statutory duties and complete his reappointment as the NSSF MD, as recommended by the Board and required by the law.
Byarugaba’s argument is based on procedural irregularities and the decision leading the Minister to the Board’s recommendation for his reappointment. He said there was a violation of his legitimate expectations by not affording him a fair hearing. He further went on to say that Patrick Ayota was not fit to head NSSF.
In the affidavit, Ayota fired back at his former boss saying that he (Ayota) has all the requisite competencies and work experience to serve as Managing Director of NSSF.
Ayota through his lawyers led by Elison Karuhanga, says the interests of justice for the entire countrywide membership of the fund override any purported interest that Byarugaba has in a leadership position that he was found unfit to occupy.
He says that in the interest of justice, Byarugaba’s appointment should not be granted. He argued that if granted, there would be a leadership lacuna that could put the whole fund in limbo without a substantive accounting officer to safeguard members’ savings.
Ayota says his appointment was done lawfully, is valid, and was not done to defeat the present application for judicial as alleged by Byarugaba.
“That I know that the instant Application and it’s supporting affidavits do not raise any act or commission attributed to me personally for which I am being faulted and I am advised by my aforementioned lawyers that the application does not disclose any cause of action against me as alleged or at all”.
He says now in the interest of justice, fairness, and equity, Byarugaba’s application should be dismissed with costs.
Byarugaba had served the NSSF MD since August 1, 2010, and his second appointment, which began on November 29, 2017, expired on November 30, 2022.
Byarugaba contends that even before his second contract could run its course, Amongi attempted to prematurely end it by stating that he should have retired upon reaching 60 years of age. He adds that only with the intervention of the Attorney General was he able to complete his second term of office.
The NSSF Board of Directors had recommended renewing the contracts of both Byarugaba and his then-deputy Ayota. However, Amongi renewed only the contract of the Deputy MD and deferred Byarugaba’s appointment, citing various allegations, including financial impropriety, collusion with contractors, defiance of presidential directives, and corruption.
Despite meetings at State House on December 6, 2022, and receiving guidance from President Yoweri Museveni to conclude Byarugaba’s appointment process, Amongi did not follow the guidance.
Byarugaba argues that this, along with ignoring the February 2023 report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the state of affairs at NSSF where he was cleared of financial impropriety allegations, makes the decision not to renew his contract illegal, irrational, and procedurally incorrect.
According to Byarugaba, the decision also disregarded the Inspector General of Government’s report, which cleared him of allegations and supported the Board’s recommendation based on his previous performance in office.
However, as the matter was pending in court, Amongi now elevated Ayota and appointed him as the Managing Director of the fund.
Byarugaba then asked the court to allow him amend his petition and include Ayota as the third respondent such that he can be given a fair hearing and he defends himself over the allegations. His application succededed and the matter returned to court today for a follow up on amendment to see if they were effected as ordered by the Judge.
In his application, Byarugaba argues that Ayota was appointed on August 18th, 2023, while holding the substantive statutory position of Deputy MD on a fixed five-year term, making him ineligible for the MD appointment.
Through his lawyers led by Anthony Bazira, Byarugaba requested the court to invalidate Ayota’s appointment and issue a permanent injunction to prevent Ayota from acting as the MD of the fund.
Justice Ssekaana after hearing the parties today has given them a one week adjournment and directed that the parties file any other documents to enable the court to give further guidance on the case.
He has directed that the lawyers representing Byarugaba, the Attorney General, Amongi and Ayota to file their written submissions in the case and return on December 4th 2023 for mention.
Records indicate that NSSF, under Byarugaba’s and his Deputy’s leadership Ayota, currently has 2,000,000 members and assets worth 18 trillion Shillings. Based on this performance, Byarugaba is seeking to have the decision not to renew his contract set aside.