Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Government and workers’ representatives have agreed to scrap the 120 months-contribution thresh-hold requirements for National Social Security Fund-NSSF midterm access. Usher Wilson Owere, the chairperson of the Nation Organization of Trade Unions-NOTU disclosed this during the Labor Day celebrations at Kololo ceremonial grounds.
The Gender, Labor and Social Development Minister, Betty Amongi later confirmed the development. Speaking with a smile and vigour, Owere informed the president and workers represented by their union leaders that they have had a series of meetings, which resolved to scrap off the contribution thresh-hold.
Owere noted that the thresh-hold is currently hindering a lot of workers from accessing their benefits as it was envisioned while passing the National Social Security Fund (Amendment) Act, 2021.
Section 20A of the law titled “mid-term access to benefits” provides that a member who is forty-five years of age and above and who has made contributions to the Fund for at least ten years, is eligible for mid-term access to his or her benefits, of a sum, not exceeding 20 percent of his or her accrued benefits and those with disabilities can under the law withdraw up to 50 percent of their accrued benefits.
However, when the law was passed, the legal brains at NSSF and later the Attorney General interpreted it, saying for a person to be eligible for the midterm access window, in addition to being 45 years old, they must have religiously contributed to the fund for at least 10 years.
However, several people including Dr Sam Lyomoki, who is the Secretary-General of Central Organisation of Free Trade Unions-COFTU rubbished this view noting that the 120 months contribution thresh-hold was not in the spirit of the law as it was being debated in Parliament, but rather administratively smuggled into the equation through misinterpretation of the law.
Dr Lyomoki and other unionists argued that the original draft of the bill had provided that an eligible claimant would be a person aged 45 years or older and shall be deemed to have contributed if his or her account was maintained with the Fund (NSSF) for at least ten years from the date of his or her first contribution to the Fund.
According to statistics from NSSF, the interpretation of the law reduced the number of beneficiaries, which had been estimated at 130,000 in June 2021 to 41,174 in March 2022. This means that the NSSF and Attorney General’s interpretation of the law left out over 80,000 workers who were warming up to benefit from the fund.
Now, Amongi says that after a series of meetings and consultations, they have agreed that the current wording of the law be changed through an amendment to cater for members who have contributed to the Fund for 10 years and more, notwithstanding whether those contributions have been consistent or not over the said period.
Although it is not yet clear how long the amendment will take, Among notes that the bill which intends to repeal only one word in the current law will pass through the procedures and asks the workers to patiently wait for the process.