Uganda: Court Quashes Govt Decision On NSSF Board Members

Kampala — The High Court has ordered government to comply with the directive of Cabinet and have the two workers of the National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) as representatives on the board of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

Justice Andrew Bashaija, in his verdict on Friday, scoffed at the Uganda Retirement Benefits and Regulatory Authority (URBRA) for having overstepped its mandate when it directed on the suitability of members to serve on the NSSF board when it didn't have such powers.

"The law governing the appointment of NSSF board members is not governed by URBRA Act but by NSSF Act which sets out the criteria of persons who can serve on the NSSF board. URBRA Act did not repeal who can serve on the NSSF nor is the NSSF Act mentioned in the cross reference of the acts affected by its enactment," ruled justice Bashaija.

He added: "Therefore, by recommending on the suitability of the applicant's nominees to act as trustees of the NSSF board, the 2nd respondent [URBRA assumed the power not vested in it by law and as such exceeded its legal mandate, which is a clear case of acting ultra vires to the law, irrationally and with procedural impropriety."

The case arose in December 2018 when NOTU nominated two of its members to represent workers on the NSSF board but were rejected.

The nominees were; Peter Christopher Werikhe and Stephen Mugole.

URBRA rejected the duo's appointment on grounds that they were not 'fit' and 'proper persons' to be appointed because they did not possess the requisite qualifications.

Subsequently, NOTU sued government and URBRA and won.

Justice Bashaija quashed the decision of government on appointment of the workers representatives on the NSSF board. The judge also quashed URBRA's recommendations regarding the suitability of NOTU's nominees to act as trustees of the NSSF board. He ordered government to meet the legal costs incurred by NOTU in prosecuting the matter.

"An order of mandamus doth issue compelling the 1st respondent (government) to comply with Cabinet directive under minute 405 (CT 2008) of the 5th minute held on 24th September 2008 to have the four workers' representatives on NSSF board. The applicant is awarded costs of this application," Justice Bashaija ruled.

The decision

NOTU and its sister organisation, the Central Organisation of Free Trade Union (COFTU) are supposed to nominate four workers' representatives on the NSSF board, according to the decision reached by Cabinet under Minute 405 (CT 2008) on September 24, 2008. Cabinet reasoned that the two organisations have legitimate interest in NSSF affairs since it keep huge sums of workers savings.

In their petition, NOTU contended that the NSSF Act does not provide for particular qualifications for one to be appointed a member of its board. They said the only requirement needed is that the nominee must not be insolvent or bankrupt or a convict. NOTU contended that its nominees to the NSSF board Mr Werikhe and Mr Mugole are both university graduates but were rejected by URBRA.

NOTU had argued that the URBRA decision to reject the two nominees was biased with vendetta since the duo were scholars in management and are managers with wide experience.

Mr Werikhe is secretary of NOTU while Mr Mugole is general secretary of Uganda Hotel Food, Tourism, Supermarket and Allied Workers' Union, which makes them suitable to represent workers on NSSF board.

Mr Usher Wilson Owere, the chairperson of NOTU yesterday said: "I am extremely happy the workers of Uganda have got justice to have four representatives on the board of NSSF recovering what we fought for in 2008 to be part of NSSF which was being denied us by URBRA," Mr Owere said.

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