By Our Reporters

The Minster of Gender Labour and Social Development Betty Amongi Ongom has once again defended the Ug.shs. 6bn she directed the NSSF Management and Board to include in its 2023/24 budget to mobilise more savings for the fund.

While addressing journalists at the Media Center in Kampala Amongi who was accompanied by the Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija and the NSFF Board of Directors Chairman , Dr. Peter Kimbowa , explained that the Ug.Shs.6bn she directed to be included in the NSSF budget is for activities that will be implemented by NSSF management and not her Gender Ministry .

“These strategic initiatives had corresponding activities for which an allocation of UGX 6 billion was approved in the budget in June, 2022 and the work plan was reviewed in November 2022. I would like to demystify the ongoing misinformation .The 6bn budget I approved is appropriated under NSSF operation Budget for 2022/2023,” Amongi stated.

She added , “The activities I have mentioned above are NSSF activities and not of the Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social Development. These activities will be undertaken by the NSSF in partnership with relevant entities, be it government agencies or private sector players.

The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development will only provide oversight, and support the Fund in the implementation of these activities, in line with its legal mandate as the Ministry responsible for social security,”  she added .

Money included in NSSF budget after Amongi’s directive

However , the Shs.Ug.6b was included in the NSSF budget after Amongi wrote a letter dated  June 16th ,2022 addressed to Dr. Peter Kimbowa the Board Chairman in which she directed that the money be provided .

“ As discussed to achieve our objective of expanding  collections of contributions from workers through collaboration with key stakeholders as agreed in our meeting , provide an allocation of Shs.6 Billion  from operating budget of shs.220,885,834,375 (Two hundred and twenty billion, eight hundred and eighty five million , eight hundred and thirty four thousand three hundred and seventy five shillings only ) to cater for the key priorities ,” Amongi ‘s letter states in part.

She told the media that the Ug.shs.6bn will cater for compliance in enforcing the NSSF amended Act which provides for mandatory contributions by all workers regardless of the size of the enterprise or the number of employees and voluntary contributions to the Fund.

Minister Amongi highlighted the activities for the Ug.Shs.6bn to include  the establishment of an online system for whistleblowers to report non-compliance by employers who deduct and do not remit employees’ contributions. This intervention she said  is important because compliance at the moment stands at only 40% in the formal sector.

The other activities are ,drive mass registration of both eligible employers and employees considering that the new law is targeting 75% of the employment categories that were originally not captured under the old law; drive mandatory registration by undertaking compulsory registration in all industrial parks, plantations including sugarcane, coffee, tea, and fruits; road construction sites, and other mass employment sectors across the country, follow up with enforcement in case of defaulting entities and strengthen collaboration with other stakeholders.

Back ground :

It is reported that outgoing NSSF MD Richard Byarugaba and his management team had rejected Minister Amongi’s directive to include the Ug.Shs.6bn in the fund’s budget which led to a rift between the two principals . Amongi declined to renew Byarugaba’s contract but renewed that of his Deputy Patrick Ayota. Both gentlemen had locked 60 years and their contracts had expired .

Several meetings where then convened after the Board of Directors led by Dr. Peter Kimbowa recommended that Byarugaba’s contract be renewed for another five years .

Prime Minister Hon. Robinnah Nabbanja to write to Gender Minister Amongi to reappoint Byarugaba following several meetings with concerned stakeholders . However, Amongi defied the Prime Minister’s directive when President Museveni was away attending the USA-Africa summit in Washington DC .

The NSSF saga  about the reappointment of Richard Byarugaba  has taken a new twist  with the Inspector General of Government (IGG) taking over the investigations as per President Yoweri Museveni’s directives that both Gender Minister Betty Amongi and long serving Managing Director Richard Byarugaba be investigated about the management of the fund .

 As the disagreement between Byarugaba and Amongi deepened drawing in many interested groups-some very influential, on his return from USA –HE President Museveni called for another meeting were accusations and counter accusations were leveled between the two protagonists -Minister Amongi and Byarugaba prompting the President to direct for a full investigation before he takes a final decision on the matter .

The IGG  Beti Kamya has already swung into action freezing all NSSF expenditures including the Ug.Shs. 6bn which has now been  included in a revised budget for NSSF for the financial year 2023-2024. In a letter to NSSF Board and Management Kamya directed that no funds apart from the wage bill and statutory obligations should be spent until the investigations have been completed.

Amongi says that she has received several petitions against Byarugaba which need to be investigated including a  22-page petition signed by more than 100 workers.The petition is  supported by one of the workers MPs  Sam Lyomoki.

On the other hand ,out Spoken workers MP , Mr.Usher Wislon Owere has come out strongly to state that they will not allow Gender Minister Amongi’s political pressure on the NSSF Board and Management to release to her shs. 6bn of workers hard earned money illegally . Owere questioned why Minister Amongi doesn’t submit her budgetary request to the ministry of Finance which is constitutionally mandated to fund ministries through the consolidated fund after appropriation by parliament. He has called upon President Museveni to transfer Minister Amongi.

Legal experts speaker out

Legal experts who have talked to this publication argued that it is illegal and in fact unconstitutional for NSSF management to use workers savings to fund activities originating from the Ministry of Gender. Several lawyers said they are ready to take up the matter and file a constitutional petition together with a civil suit to challenge Amongi’s actions.

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