By PATRICK JARAMOGI
KAMPALA, Uganda-SHIFT-MEDIA- Though the battle seems far from over, Ugandan workers are determined to have their monies under the proposed mid-term access.
Through the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Amendments Act 2019, a proposal was formulated to have workers who have clocked 45 years of age have at least 20% of their NSSF savings.
The proposal followed the rough times that saw many workers hard hit due to the Covid 19 pandemic.
But after six months after it was passed by the 10th parliament, President Museveni didn’t assent to it, and forwarded it back to Parliament for further discussions.
In his remarks, President Museveni noted: “I received the National Social Security Fund (Amendments) Act 2019 for assent. However, following numerous appeals from Workers Trade Unions who are the contributors to the Fund, I held several meetings with their leaders, technical people from the Ministries of Finance, Gender and NSSF. It has been agreed that the Bill should be returned to Parliament for reconsideration of the provisions listed below.”
What is rather disturbing is the pronouncement made by new Speaker Rt. Hon Jacob Oulanyah disbanding all un cleared bills from the 10th parliament.
This in simple terms means the NSSF Act 2019 is null and void. Apparently a new Bill NSSF (Amendment) Act 2021 is being proposed as a fresh start. But the Workers Body are ready to challenge this Courts of Law.
NOTU Drags Speaker to Court
Not lying low, the National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) and its counterparts, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions (COFTU) have decided to appeal the Speakers decision by rushing to the Constitutional Court.
NOTU and COFTU contend that the decision by the Speaker (Jacob Oulanyah) is detrimental to the rights of the workers who are the majority contributors to the fund.
Counsel Richard Rwabwogo, who represents NOTU’s confirmed to us that he has been authorized to file a suit against the Speakers’ decision. “As I talk I am filing a case at the Constitutional Court against the decision by Speaker Jacob Oulanyah regarding the rejection of the NSSF (Amendment) Act 2019,” said Rwabwogo at his chambers in Kampala.
We can reveal that since Oulanyah made the pronouncements, Leaders from the various Workers Trade Unions have been locked up in meetings to find a lasting solution to the impulse.
Why President Museveni rejected the Bill
In a letter dated 26th August 2021 penned by President Museveni to the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah (That we obtained), Museveni had issues with Clause 1, Substitution of Sub Clause 24 A (2), Sub Clause 24 A (3) & (4), issues regarding supervision of the funds, and Board of Directors.
In Clause 1, Museveni recommended that it is amended so that the Act comes into force on the date of its publication in the Gazette except for Section 24(A) which shall come into force on the a day to be appointed by the Minister by Statutory Instrument on the advice of the Board.
“Under Sub Clause 24(A) (5), the Minister is required to prescribe by Statutory Instrument the terms and conditions and procedure for assessing the mid-term benefits,” note President Museveni.
“The above requires consulting the Board and other stakeholders. The said process is likely to be lengthy and yet there’s need to implement other proposed amendments immediately,” added Museveni in his missive to Oulanyah.
Regarding Sub Clause 24(A) (2), Museveni suggested that it is substituted to read: “A member who is 45 years and above and has contributed to the Fund for at least 10 years is eligible to mid-term access for up to 20% of his or her accrued benefits.”
President Museveni in his judgement noted that if this Clause is this not amended, allowing mid-term access for all members who are 45 years and above or those who have saved for 10 years increases the total numbers of members eligible to access mod-term which will be unsustainable for the Fund.
Museveni suggested that Sub Clause 24(A) (3) & (4) be deleted. The Act had recommended that a member with disability who ceases to be employed for a period not less than one year to withdraw 75% of their benefits. Museveni noted that allowing this will put savers at great risk of poverty in old age.
Similarly, Museveni observed that allowing a member who is 45 years of age and above who has ceased to be employed for a period of not less than three years to be eligible to mid-term access of a sum not exceeding 40% of his or her accrued benefits will erode member’s savings which would be most required after retirement. He also said such a move would lead the Fund to a financial distress.
President Museveni recommended that the supervision of the Fund be under the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development as opposed to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, or both.
“The problem with splitting the supervisory roles is that apart from delaying decision making, it will create room for corruption,” he noted.
He also said there is evidence that the Fund has grown its portfolio under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development.
Regarding the decision to have the NSSF Managing Director stand in as an Ex-officio with mot voting powers, Museveni noted: “The Amendment proposes that the Managing Director should be an ex-officio member of the board with no right to vote. The Managing Director is responsible for the day to day running of the fund and advises the Board not only on policy matters but on almost all issues pertaining to the fund. He or she should have a right to vote as has been the practice.”