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Jamwa’s arrest shows NSSF needs reform

By Mubatsi Asinja Habati

When he appeared before a magistrate judge in the Anticorruption Court to hear about his bail application, the former managing director of National Social Security Fund David Chandi Jamwa looked serious.

But hours later when her appeared to parliaments committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises for questioning on charges of abuse of office and fraud, Jamwa appeared subdued and humbled; and said he did not have the energy to respond to the questions from the eager legislators. He cited hypertension and a not so clear mind to postpone responding to the allegations levelled against him.

Earlier on, the Anticorruption court had denied him bail. The chubby Jamwa spoke in a faint voice asking for another time to respond to the committee’s questions. Fortunately for him, the committee did not object to his request. Later on Jamwa with other prisoners boarded the prison bus to Luzira Maximum Security Prison on the outskirts of Kampala city.

Jamwa reappeared before the court and parliament three days after police at the Malaba border post, blocked him from crossing into Kenya in the wee hours of the morning on June 21.  He first appeared in the Anti-Corruption Court on June 22 to answer charges brought against him by the Inspectorate of Government. The IGG accuses Jamwa of abuse of office and causing financial loss of Shs 2.7 billion. He allegedly caused the loss by selling government bonds before their maturity. Jamwa denies the charges. The court could not grant him bail because the anti-corruption law bars magistrates from granting bail to suspects in cases of causing financial loss. Only judges at the level of the High Court can give Jamwa bail. His lawyer, David Mpanga, asked for a speedy hearing to enable his client time to respond to queries from parliament.

If convicted Jamwa faces up to 14 years in jail or a fine of Shs 6.7 million or both.

According to the head of prosecution in the IGGs office, Sydney Asubo, Jamwa caused financial loss to government and the Funds savers when he sold bonds to Crane Financial Services before their maturity time. The loss is valued at Shs 2.7 billion. This occurred between September and November 2007 when Jamwa was NSSF chief executive, according to prosecution.

NSSF had invested in the bonds to expand the financial base of the workers savings. As of 2009 the fund was worth Shs 1.3 trillion accumulated from the workers’ savings. Following the Temangalo scandal in which NSSF controversially purchased land valued at Shs 11 billion, the fund was suspended from listing on the local stock exchange.

Jamwa and his former deputy managing director, Prof Mondo Kangonyera, have previously been accused of advancing themselves allowances and salaries amounting to Shs339 million within one year in contravention of the NSSFs internal loan regulations. The KPMG report, which led the Office of the Auditor General to do a forensic audit of the NSSF accounts, indicates that Jamwa received Shs259 million in housing advances alone, and picked up six salary advances, totaling to Shs149 million in two years and yet company rules only allow for one salary advance per year. Prof. Kagonyera received four salary advances in 2007 alone, the report said.

The Workers MP, Dr. Sam Lyamoki said the financial loss implies the workers savings will attract less interest. He told The Independent that if the Fund invested in bonds that were sold prematurely, it meant the workers missed on benefiting from financial appreciation that would result if the bonds were sold at their maturity. Lyamoki said the scandals at NSSF could be part of the reasons why savers fail to get their benefits early even when they qualify. He says as a result, workers get demoralised about saving with the Fund.

For the last 10 years NSSF has had three managing directors all leaving the office acrimoniously after making wrong decisions that hurt the Fund. NSSF has had a long history of instability at senior management level with at least three former managing directors including Abel Katembwe, Leonard Mpuuma and now Jamwa all forced out amidst controversy related to the Funds dealings in real estate business.

A former line minister, Zoe Bakoku Bakoru, fled into exile when it became clear that she would be held accountable for the scandal that followed the unresolved plan to invest billions of shillings in savers money on the Nsimbe Hosing Project.

To avoid such challenges at NSSF, Lyamoki said government has moved in to include workers representatives on the board where so far five of the ten board members are representatives of people who save with the Fund. This gives them the veto power to make decisions favouring the workers interests, said Lyamoki. He adds that a Bill to reduce the retirement age to 45 in which the workers can access their savings is being tabled in parliament as a Private Members Bill. Such laws, according to Lyamoki, would close the gaps that exist in the implementation of the NSSF funds in relation to workers interests.

It is, for instance, being mooted that a person who will have been saving with NSSF, loses his or her job, and fails to get a job within five years should access their NSSF benefits even if they have not reached the age at which to get benefits.

The NSSF is a compulsory savings scheme that covers all employees in the private sector, including non-governmental organisations and parastatal bodies that are not covered by the government Pension Scheme and presently boasts of over 300,000 members.

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