By Onghwens Kisangala
Two Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Anti Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU) and Platform for Labour Action (PLA) have teamed up to sue the NSSF over the purchase of land in Temangalo. Onghwens Kisangala caught up with the National Coordinator of ACCU Mr. Jasper Tumuhimbise.
Why are you going to court?
ACCU and PLA considered suing NSSF for mainly two reasons. Firstly, we complained to parliament for investigations about the problem. But after they started to involve in night meetings with suspects we thought that their findings would be compromised.
As of now we think whether the report pins the suspects or not it is already compromised.
What night meetings are you talking about?
After the night meeting that took place on October 7 between Amama Mbabazi and some members of the parliamentary probe committee, we considered that as anti corruption activists and also people who are engaged in the pension sector, we had work to do. The meeting was held in non official hours, in an informal place, those selected for the meeting were from the probe committee in parliament and matters discussed were connected to the probe.
The second reason we are in court against NSSF is that a bad deal for NSSF is a bad deal for pensioners. So in a way there is some level of impunity, things have been happening in that sector you know. The latest is pension house collapsing on people, all that is corruption which we must bring to a stop.
Why dont you wait for the probe committees report before you can open your case?
The report is already compromised and I actually pity both the suspects and the investigators. I am a retired investigator myself. There is no way you can convince me that a probe committee that works in the open during the day and shifts position to have another meeting under the cover of darkness can come out with anything. Anyone now has the means to challenge that report, even suspects can challenge it. In the eye of the public we already think that we will get nothing from parliament.
Even further, in the history of our parliament we have had many probes like you know the Parliamentary Accounts Committee investigations but no action is done. Whether it is compromised or not as workers we have a stake in NSSF.
There have been major public plunders before, what was ACCUâ€™s position on these?
I could give you reports but the major ones include Global Fund where ACCU was a complainant [in court]. Others like GAVI Funds, when the report came out we even had a vigil to ensure that those recommendations were implemented. We have also been advocating for other issues like the Anti Corruption Bill so that we strengthen the laws so that we begin to take people to court with greater confidence.
What is ACCU doing beyond corruption condemnations and agitations?
We have at the local level what we call regional coalitions. These are busy gauging people against what is known as social wills. This is where people say okay let them eat and then wait for election time to be given salt and soap and vote them back. So we are mobilising people to start shunning the corrupt.
ACCU like some other activism organizations are more passive and at best reactive more than proactive. You never expose corruption scandals but wait to learn from the media, why?
NGOs do not have the technical capacity to investigate issues the way the media does. And also NGOs are not necessarily clean. Sometimes our advocacy nature does not allow us to go and approach others, and that is what we are also trying to change in the NGO world. And as ACCU we think we need not only to clean our house but also put a mechanism in place to check corruption in NGOs so as to have the moral authority to talk against the government.
We are now training people to be more alert against corruption. In Teso region for example it is now dangerous to use an ambulance to carry goats because you will actually be dismissed. If you are a corrupt politician in Teso you wont stand. Chief Administrative Officers,(CAOs), today fear to transfer to certain districts. If you are a corrupt civil servant you wont got to Kabale.
Back to your case against NSSF, you are asking court to pass among other recommendations the transfer of NSSF back to the ministry of Labour. What would make it more effectively managed there?
The ministry of Labour is directly in charge of labour in the country. It is the one responsible for workers. We have labour technocrats in that ministry in charge of labour, entandikwa and even social welfare.
You want your demands met before December, how realistic is that?
It is the minister who promised that before December, the liberalisation processes of NSSF and its regulator would be complete. So let us wait. Beyond this we are going back to court to put an injunction on our remittance of funds to NSSF as employers and employees until something is done. We are actually beginning to mobilise for this. We can even call for a civil disobedience and in Uganda when you talk about civil disobedience they think you are a politician. This is my money. I have a stake in NSSF even more than those who are talking.
Take this scenario, judges agree with you in this case, so you win. What next?
After the declaration of that contract null and void, the seller of that land should refund that money without even a consideration of interest. After that, we can again consider if we can use public interest litigation to bring those who brought disrepute to NSSF to book. In other words, this is the beginning of public interest litigation, and the corrupt should worry because we are going to start taking them head on.