The Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hon. Betty Amongi, has rejected a claim by the board chairperson of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) that she irregularly requested for Shs6 billion.
On Thursday, 02 February 2023, a day after Peter Kimbowa’s allegation before the select committee investigating allegations of mismanagement of the workers’ funds, Amongi also had her opportunity with the committee.
Kimbowa had told the committee that the Shs6 billion under the 2022/2023 budget was not approved by the board because it did not have a work plan.
Amongi assured the committee that her decision was guided by Section 29 of the NSSF Act which mandates her to amend the NSSF budget, as deemed necessary.
“The board may, with the sanction of the minister, make a disbursement notwithstanding that the disbursement is not provided for in any budget,” she read the provisions of the Act in part.
This prompted Hon. Richard Gafabusa (NRM, Bwamba County) to ask how the minister arrived at the Shs6 billion.
“In the letters that you have presented, the managing director indicated that some of the activities you had requested the funds for were already provided for in the budget and yet the figure you requested for remained Shs6 billion,” said Gafabusa.
Amongi said that she requested for the funds after she identified that the fund’s 2022/2023 budget did not provide for activities to implement the amended NSSF Act which introduced voluntary contributions, among others.
“I first asked for the budget break down and they replied. In my letter I requested them to allocate funds to implement the new law. The new law brings on board more than half of what NSSF was doing. As a minister, I have to develop a new product for voluntary savings which is 75 per cent of the current work force,” said Amongi.
Hon. Fortunate Nantongo (DP, Kyotera District Woman MP) then asked the minister to clarify claims by the board that there was no work plan for the request and hence, they did not approve the request.
“We actually laboured to ask the board where the work plan came from and the board clearly told us that it came from the minister, meaning the board had nothing to do with the work plan of the Shs6 billion and the Shs6 billion itself. I really need clarity on this because they are contradicting statements,” said Nantongo.
The minister said that the board invited her to a meeting on 25 November 2022 and her request was part of the agenda items.
“In that meeting, they presented to me all the ideas I had brought with an attached budget line which I laid on the Floor of Parliament. That budget with its corresponding activities was presented item by item. That board meeting was to handle strategic issues and to present my ideas,” said Amongi.
She added that the board chairperson went ahead to direct management to present a detailed work plan on 15 December and subsequently present the work plan.
Hon. Charles Bakkabulindi (NRM, Workers’ MP) however advised that since the board disowned the minister’s request, the committee should meet both parties together.
“The work plan according to the board and management is not yet approved. They refused to conclude the budget because they had no work plan. To me, these people are confusing us with different statements. They all need to be put on oath,” said Bakkabulindi.
To ascertain how the Shs6 billion was captured in the 2022/2023 budget, committee chair, Hon. Mwine Mpaka, asked the ministry’s permanent secretary, Aggrey Kibenge.
“The budget that came from the investment committee and project monitoring did not have the Shs6 billion but the budget the minister presented has the Shs6 billion, where did it come from?” Mwine Mpaka asked.
Kibenge said that the money was originated in a meeting between the minister and NSSF management, including then managing director, Richard Byarugaba and his deputy, Patrick Ayota.
“When the budget was submitted to the minister, she raised questions about it. She invited management for a meeting in her office where management led by Byarugaba and Ayota and two other people came to clarify to her their budget proposals. And according to her, because I did not attend the meeting to the end, the Shs6 billion originated in the minister’s office,” the permanent secretary said.