29 August 2014

Uganda: NSSF Job Saga - UK Firm in Secret Hunt for New MD

It might take a while before the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) gets a new management team, especially after it emerged that there is a clandestine plot to start fresh recruitments for new candidates.

The Observer has seen documents showing that a firm from the United Kingdom, Executives in Africa, has called for new candidates for two of the top jobs at NSSF, more than two months after PricewaterhouseCoopers completed a similar assignment. The company is sourcing for a managing director and corporation secretary.

"Due to the high level of confidentiality of this role, the name of the business and the company overview will remain confidential until the second stage of the process when CVs have been received," Executives in Africa writes in a document it labelled, "highly confidential."

The recruitment company adds; "At this stage, however, we can confirm that this position is for a large investment fund with over 1 billion USD assets under management and will be based in Kampala, Uganda."

NSSF is the only fund with such an amount of assets in Kampala. According to the document, Sarah Fitzgerald, the managing director of Executives in Africa, will lead the search for NSSF's new managing director. She will be supported by Chika Okeke, a consultant with the company.

"Due to the transformation of the pension system currently underway, the MD must be capable of driving change with specific accountability for ensuring the development of sound business development strategies and structures that will support the fund's corporate and strategic objectives," the advert reads.

Executives in Africa says it will deliver an initial shortlist of the candidates to NSSF today, August 29, but encourages candidates to submit applications until September 19th, 2014.

Initial search stopped?

The new search raises questions about the process undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoppers, which reportedly cost close to Shs 500 million and currently the subject of an ongoing parliamentary investigation. A law firm, C. Mukiibi Sentamu & Co Advocates, through a private citizen's petition, has already written to Sarah Fitzgerald seeking clarifications before it lodges a suit against the entire process.

In a confidential letter to Fitzgerald, dated August 25, C. Mukiibi Sentamu & Co Advocates asks: "Does your firm have the legal mandate to undertake the recruitment process on behalf of the high-profile fund? If so, could you avail us with the instruments of instruction or highlight to us under which law or contract you attain the permission/authority from?"

However, in an interview, Ivan Kyayonka, the chairman of NSSF, told The Observer that "there is still an ongoing effort to find a new MD" of the fund. Without elaborating, he said that process was being undertaken by the ministry of Finance. Asked whether he knew of the hiring of Executives in Africa to find a new managing director of the fund, or even ever heard about the name of the company, Kyayonka simply replied, "No."

Jim Mugunga, the spokesman of the ministry of Finance, said he had heard of a document doing the rounds about the new recruitment of NSSF's new managing director. But he denied that the ministry of Finance had contracted the UK firm to undertake that assignment.

"She [Finance minister Maria Kiwanuka] is consulting [over the findings of the PWC report]," he said, adding that the law gives the finance minister to act at her discretion.

The Observer sent an email to Sarah Fitzgerald about her new assignment in Kampala. However, we received an auto reply that said: "I am out of the office on annual vacation and will be back on Monday 1st September. During this time, I will be trying to avoid my emails!"

Unlike the case with the previous process, no adverts for the top jobs at NSSF have so far been placed in either local or/and foreign media.

Controversial process:

It is more than two months since PWC handed its results to the ministry of Finance, who is mandated to appoint a new MD for the fund. That process, however, got shrouded in controversy when a group of legislators petitioned Parliament on July 8 over alleged influence peddling.

The legislators accused finance minister Maria Kiwanuka and NSSF board chairman, Ivan Kyayonka, of working to disregard the results of the interviews in order to offer the social security agency's three top jobs to candidates of their choice. (See NSSF job fights: the inside story)

However, the NSSF Act gives the minister powers to appoint individuals for all three top positions, as long as they are from the pool of candidates recommended to her by board after the interviews.

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