Uganda: Workers Petition Museveni Over Bid for Control of NSSF

4 December 2019

Workers have petitioned President Museveni, accusing the Finance ministry of plotting to take over full control of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

The petition was submitted to the President yesterday. The workers under their National Organisation of Trade Unions (Notu) said they cannot accept a takeover of NSSF by a ministry which nearly brought down the Fund through the Liberalisation Bill and has no mandate for social security.

"We understand that the Ministry of Finance has reasoned that since NSSF is a provident fund (pays lump sums), it does not qualify as a social security scheme and therefore should not report to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. This is erroneous assumption that what qualifies a scheme to be a social security scheme is the mode of payment," Notu chairman, Mr Usher Wilson Owere, wrote.

He added: "We disagree with the erroneous position and assert that what qualifies an entity to be a social security is the intent for which it was set up and subsequent management of the same."

Citing both the Employee Provident Fund of Malaysia and Central Provident Fund of Singapore where funds are considered social security schemes, Mr Owere argued NSSF was set up to alleviate old age poverty and that NSSF has within the current Act, an option for members to choose lump sum or instalment withdrawal of their savings.

In July, Cabinet chaired by President Museveni endorsed the amendment of the NSSF Act 1985 where the Ministry of Gender is to be in-charge of social security policy and compliance of NSSF while the Finance ministry will take over the investment mandate.

In the NSSF Amendment Bill 2019, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development proposes dual supervision of the Fund. The Bill is pending scrutiny before Parliamentary committees.

"As workers, we were mortified to learn that the Ministry of Finance, going against their own conditions have approached you to support their objective of taking over their entire Fund," Mr Owere added.

When contacted, President Museveni's press secretary Mr Don Wanyama said he could not ascertain whether the President had received the petition.

"But I am certain when he does, he will guide in a way that ultimately the workers' interests who save with the Fund are best protected," Mr Wanyama said.

He said the Finance ministry officials presented reasons to the President that NSSF cannot have more than one oversight ministry because it would cause problems.

Background

The trade union leaders supported the Cabinet proposal for dual supervision by the ministers of Labour and Finance as stated in the amendment, saying it does not create a conflict and instead creates a good balance for the good of the fund.

Last month, the Ministry of Finance spokesperson, Mr Jim Mugunga, said they are not aliens to NSSF because they also contribute to it.

"In this day and era, our belief at Finance is that various systems of governance should be allowed to function," he said.

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