KAMPALA –Gender, Labour and Social Development minister, Betty Amongi has dismissed as unfounded – claims by the National Social Security Fund – NSSF board that she irregularly requested for Ugx6b.
Amongi appeared before the select committee investigating allegations of mismanagement of the workers’ funds on Thursday – a day after the NSSF board chair; Peter Kimbowa alleged that the Minister’s requisition was irregular.
Kimbowa told the committee that the board did not approve Ugx6b under the 2022/2023 budget because it lacked a work plan.
But Amongi assured the committee that her decision was guided by Section 29 of the NSSF Act, which mandates her office to amend the NSSF budget, as deemed necessary.
“The board may, with the sanction of the minister, make a disbursement notwithstanding that the disbursement is not provided for in any budget,” she read the provisions of the Act in parts – prompting Richard Gafabusa – Bwamba County MP to ask how the minister arrived at the figure of Ugx6b.
“In the letters that you have presented, the managing director indicated that some of the activities you had requested the funds for were already provided for in the budget and yet the figure you requested for remained Ugx6b,” said Gafabusa.
Amongi responded that she requested for the funds after she identified that the fund’s 2022/2023 budget did not provide for activities to implement the amended NSSF Act, which introduced voluntary contributions, among others.
“I first asked for the budget break down and they replied. In my letter I requested them to allocate funds to implement the new law. The new law brings on board more than half of what NSSF was doing.
“As a minister, I have to develop a new product for voluntary savings which is 75 per cent of the current work-force,” said Amongi.
Fortunate Nantongo – the Kyotera district Woman MP, then interjected – demanding that the minister clarifies the board’s claims that there was no work plan for the request and hence – did not approve the said money.
“We actually laboured to ask the board where the work plan came from and the board clearly told us that it came from the minister – meaning the board had nothing to do with the work plan of the Ugx6b. I really need clarity on this because they are contradicting statements,” said Nantongo.
The minister said that the board invited her for a meeting on November 25, 2022 and her request was part of the items on the agenda.
“In that meeting, they presented to me all the ideas I had brought with an attached budget line, which I laid on the Floor of Parliament. That budget with its corresponding activities was presented item by item. That board meeting was to handle strategic issues and to present my ideas,” clarified Amongi – adding that the board chairperson went ahead and directed management to present a detailed work plan on December 15 – subsequently presenting the work plan.
Charles Bakkabulindi – the Workers’ MP, however advised that since the board had disowned the minister’s request – the committee should meet both parties together.
“The work plan according to the board and management is not yet approved. They refused to conclude the budget because they had no work plan. To me, these people are confusing us with different statements. They all need to be put on oath,” advised Bakkabulindi.
The committee chair, Mwine Mpaka, asked the ministry’s permanent secretary, Aggrey Kibenge to ascertain how the Ugx6b was captured in the 2022/2023 budget.
“The budget that came from the investment committee and project monitoring did not have the Ugx6b but the budget the minister presented has the Ugx6b, where did it come from?” asked Mwine Mpaka.
Kibenge said that the money was originated in a meeting between the minister and NSSF management – including then managing director, Richard Byarugaba and his deputy, Patrick Ayota.
“When the budget was submitted to the minister, she raised questions about it. She invited management for a meeting in her office where management led by Byarugaba and Ayota and two other people came to clarify to her their budget proposals. And according to her, because I did not attend the meeting to the end, the Ugx6b originated in the minister’s office,” clarified Kibenge.