By David Chandi Jamwa
I have read carefully the reasons why I was supposedly sent on suspension as Managing Director of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). I admit that I am not perfect. Indeed, no one ever is. Yet my alleged faults are of a tactical, not a strategic nature. My role as MD at NSSF was to increase return on members’ savings by making smart investment decisions. Therefore, judgment of my tenure there should be on that basis.
I have been accused of taking salary advances to the tune of Shs 229 million. I am an employee of NSSF. My appointment letter says all my terms and conditions will be governed by the staff handbook and the staff policies. Under the policy, I have the right to obtain a staff loan for housing of up to five years salary. My five years salary is close to Shs.800million. I did not take that loan.
So salary advances of Shs 229m are far below what I was entitled to as a loan. Therefore, the only way NSSF would be at risk is if I am unable to repay it in my contract time period.
I am also accused of not coming to office regularly and that when I did I would come in casual wear. First, in modern management, a CEO does not need to be always physically in office to be effective. The issue really is whether I was doing my job, not how many hours I spent in office. I used to dress smart casual ‘” in my NSSF branded shirt, then trousers which are slacks. My feet are sick with gout plus ingrown nails, so I wear open shoes.
When I joined NSSF, I found staff members with so many problems. No one was interested in their problems, they were not being enumerated properly, they were not having any morale boosting, and they were basically like orphans. When I went round during my diagnostic meetings to the branches of NSSF, one of the staff members described EXCO [Executive Committee] as ‘˜stiff-necked bastards’. The distance between staff and management was because management was walking around in ties; they could not be talked to and would lock themselves in their offices. So I removed all curtains in all offices to create openness in the place.
The only way to galvanize staff was actually the process of demystifying management. The easiest way was for us to be the same ‘” both managers and staff. We all began to wear branded shirts, to have pride in the Fund, to move together as one ‘” an open door policy. There is always resistance to change. The dress-down policy is an empirically proven modern management policy. The way to precipitate significant change is to have significant change drivers. I was that driver.
I was also accused of abusing the NSSF credit card yet I pay all my credit card expenses from my money. The day I was suspended, the amount on my card was zero. On the American Express card, the limit is molded automatically with your usage rate. For example, in six months, if you have used US$ 5000, the limit automatically resets it to US$10,000. In the next six months if you use US$ 20,000 the limit automatically resets to US$ 30,000. Did I use any of the workers’ money on the credit card? The answer is no. Do I owe NSSF or any of those companies on that credit card any money? The answer is no. Who paid that money? The answer is Jamwa.
Regarding how much money I took home, I can only say that somebody’s financial status can never be the size of his pay check. In my case, my wife is the head of treasury, Centenary Bank. She buys all the food at home and pays all the fees. I have personal investments and companies; my consultancy company, my real estate company and so on. I came to NSSF on a salary cut. When I left PWC (PriceWaterhouseCoppers) my salary was Shs 500million a year. At NSSF, it is slightly above Shs 200 million a year. I went to NSSF to put a mark on the development of this country. As the reader might notice, these accusations against me are on form, not substance.
The more substantive accusation is Lumumba Avenue. This project was initialed 15 years ago. There have been more redesigns of Lumumba than the fingers on my hands, long before I joined the Fund. It is a project that has suffered perennial close downs and re-starts. When I joined NSSF that old design had already been tendered. The design was 10 years old. It was very uneconomical. So it would have been completely absurd to continue with it.
For example, the old design lacked basic things like air conditioning and lifts. How can NSSF be seen to be erecting a building of the 1980’s in the 2000’s? A good manager must challenge areas of value leakage. The new design was approved by the board and it sat on the minister’s desk until Temangalo exploded and it has sat there for at least five months now.
Be that as it may, when you have a contract under PPDA, you are allowed variation up to 25%. We are at the ground excavation level. At that level, the difference between the old and the new design is the number of floors downwards i.e. three extra floors. Assuming the redesign is approved, to go the three extra floors down, there is no problem. Assuming it is not approved; if we went down the three extra floors would it make the old design more economical? Yes. I did a modification of the old design within the old design that is allowable. And that variation is within the 25%.
NSSF has never ever implemented the new design. The contract is for the old design. That is why there needs to be variations to accommodate scenarios like this. I use a variation to go down so that when the minister and KCC approve, we have not lost time, we do not have a contracted site with one floor waiting for six months for a ministerial approval. Secondly, if the minister does not approve, we go up with our old design which has been amended within the old contract and is modified to make the building more economical. I never gave an order to begin construction. If you go to Lumumba Avenue, you will not find any construction there except a hole.