By Andrew M. Mwenda
The inside story
On December 4, 2008, President Yoweri Museveni called Finance Minister Ezra Suruma and ordered him to suspend the Managing Director of National Social Security Fund (NSSF), David Chandi Jamwa and his deputy, Mondo Kagonyera. For months, Suruma had been psychologically paralysed and unable to take action. Now he had to and he complied.
Yet in October, Museveni had bulldozed his NRM party caucus from censuring Security Minister Amama Mbabazi and Suruma. The two ministers were the architects of the Temangalo land saga in which NSSF bought Mbabazi and businessman Amos Nzei’s land at Shs 11bn. But the transaction later provoked a parliamentary inquiry after reports emerged that the two ministers had exerted political pressure on the NSSF managers to buy the land in disregard of procurement procedures.
Museveni saved Mbabazi and Suruma from censure by influencing NRM party MPs in the House, arguing the two ministers did not commit any wrong in the land deal. So how and why did the president make a move on Jamwa since the NRM caucus had recommended that all those involved in the deal be spared?
Sources close to State House say the president was acting on the basis of a dossier written about Jamwa and his management of NSSF. But insiders say the dossier alone could not have moved the president. The decision was sparked by a series of actions by Ministry of Finance officials who raised serious concerns about Jamwa. The Temangalo saga provided the right context to cause the decision.
For example, on September 5, 2008, the Auditor General (AG), John Muwanga, had written to Jamwa informing him that he had hired an audit firm, KPMG, to audit NSSF’s Temangalo deal.
Jamwa responded with an unsigned letter on the same day saying that hiring KPMG would raise serious conflict of interest. Muwanga was not convinced. He wrote to Suruma on September 19, 2008, complaining about Jamwa’s resistance to the audit. He also informed Suruma that he was commencing his audit on September 22.
Since he was resisting the audit, Muwanga asked Suruma to first suspend Jamwa to allow the investigations. Suruma did not reply the AG.
Suruma’s inability to act and alleged personalised supervision of NSSF forced some Ministry of Finance officials to take unprecedented actions to save the Fund. When Suruma travelled abroad in October, Finance officials approached State Minister for General Duties Fred Omach, who was acting. They asked him to write to Jamwa stopping all investments by NSSF except in treasury bills, bonds and commercial bank deposits.
Omach wrote the letter on October 10. Jamwa did not reply the letter. Some say he was weighing whether to defy it.
But when Suruma returned to office, Jamwa wrote to him on November 12, asking the minister to rescind Omach’s letter. By this time, however, Suruma was in a state of paralysis and unable to do anything.
As with the AG, he did not reply Jamwa’s letter either. Fearful that the problem would not go away, Ministry of Finance officials took the problem directly to Museveni. Jamwa was posing a danger to the Fund, they said, and Suruma was paralysed to make decisions. It is on this basis that the president directed Suruma to suspend Jamwa.
Meanwhile, Museveni had tasked a team at State House to write a dossier on Jamwa and NSSF. The dossier showed that Jamwa was involved in gross financial and personal indiscipline that was putting the Fund’s resources and reputation at risk. For example, the dossier indicated, Jamwa had taken salary advances of Shs 229m from the Fund.
According to his work contract, he was entitled to a gross salary of Shs 18m, a fully maintained official vehicle, medical cover for himself and immediate family and a health club membership of his choice. This left his take-home-pay as Shs 11m per month. The enormous salary advances within only one and a half years as MD raised serious doubts about his judgement and financial discipline.