Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | An activist has petitioned the Constitutional court to declare that a compulsory requirement that employees must register and save their retirement money with only the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) is illegal and limits people’s freedom of choice and democracy.
The petition is filed by Morisson Rwakakamba who describes himself as a human rights activist together with Agency for Transformation, a local think tank he founded.
The petition notes“imposing compulsory registration eligibility, contribution and restrictions on employers and employees violates rights of contributors and members to free, open and democratic society.” The prayer is that there should be other avenues or pension funds where members can choose to put their money.
The call for the breaking of NSSF monopoly was a big highlight of the Retirement sector Liberalization Bill 2011 which has since been shelved. The bill was vehemently opposed by NSSF but had been supported by former Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka.
The proponents of the bill then argued that more players would force NSSF to be innovative and impact savers’ lives more gainfully than to wait for them to retire.
The petition, which is an amendment of one filed in May 2020, is mainly calling for a provision that NSSF members have access to at least 20% of their savings in times of emergencies like coronavirus pandemic. The talk over access to NSSF savings peaked in May. It was opposed by NSSF managing director Richard Byarugaba and Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority boss Martin Anthony Nsubuga.
Members of Parliament in May passed an amendment to NSSF Act to allow workers who have saved for over 15 years but are below 45 years of age to have access to 20% of their savings. Still, this does not address the issue of emergencies.
Meanwhile, the petition also calls the court to declare that NSSF forms a workers’ bank be formed to do “public business that shall provide subsidized financing for members’ businesses and mortgages or any other self-reliance initiative.”
Another prayer in the petition is that even when a member has retired and received their savings, they or those that inherited their benefits should continue receiving interest from the investments the fund owns simply because their money was used to invest in those assets including land, residential and commercial buildings.
Severino Twinobusigye, the lawyer among those that are arguing the petition, said: “The Constitutional Court performs its legal duty of constitutional interpretation and can also grant remedies. Therefore, the Morrison petition is properly before a competent Court with competent jurisdiction.”
The hearing of the petition will likely go on for some months or even years when Ugandans have put the pandemic behind them.
However, it could be a worthy shot at reforming NSSF and see to it that it benefits its 2.3 million members more than it does now.