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Joint Committee stuck with NSSF Amendment Bill

The NSSF headquarters.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT  | A joint committee that is scrutinizing the National Social Security Fund Amendment Bill is stuck following a disagreement between Henry Musasizi, the chairperson of the Finance Committee and his Gender counterpart Alex Ndeezi.

The Bill seeks to, among others, expand social security coverage and benefits through enforcing mandatory contributions for all workers in the formal and informal sectors, provide for midterm access to benefits and taxing of benefits for savers who withdraw their savings before attaining 60-years, among others.

The draft, which was first presented to parliament in August was first sent to the Gender committee for scrutiny. But owing to its contents, which include financial and social security policy matters, the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga directed the two committee to form work together, to process the Bill.

The process hit a snag when the finance committee allegedly cancelled the last meeting with Gender Minister Janat Mukwaya, a move which Gender committee chairperson Alex Ndeezi says proves lack of cooperation.

However, Musasizi says that the joint committee was in the process of drafting a report when the Gender team pulled out of the process and demanded extra time to consider the Bill.  Musasizi and Ndeezi say they are now stuck on how to proceed.

Controversy on the draft was also sparked off by a suggestion to return the fund, with a capital of about 11 trillion shillings, to the Ministry of Finance, from Gender where it has been managed in recent years.

In October, President Yoweri Museveni wrote to Kadaga to clarify on which government agency should supervise NSSF. In the letter, dated October 4, 2019, Museveni objected to the provision that the Ministry of Finance will oversee finance matters of the fund while the Ministry of Gender will handle policy issues.

He advised that the Ministry of Finance should have sole oversight over NSSF, adding that this should be streamlined by Parliament as it processes the Bill. According to Museveni, the split oversight mandate of would cause delays in decision making and create loopholes for corruption.

Museveni cites the Finance ministry’s specialized mandate to oversee the management of such funds and its capacity to review NSSF decisions and ensure that they are sound business-wise. According to Musasizi, the majority of the finance committee members support Museveni’s proposal.

But several other MPs’ a sizeable majority of them from the Gender committee objected to the suggestion. They argue that the Ministry of Finance will influence decisions of the fund and manipulate its systems so that the government can have direct access to workers’ savings.

The Chairman General of National Organizations of Trade Unions-NOTU, Usher Wilson Owere also opposes Museveni’s view.  On December 3, 2019, Owere wrote to the president stating that dual supervision of NSSF will create a good balance for the good of the Fund.

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