Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Parliament’s select committee probing the operations of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) on Thursday turned away Dr. Sam Lyomoki, one of the Fund’s board members over allegations of bias.
Lyomoki, who represents the Central Organization of Free Trade Unions-Uganda (COFTU) appeared alongside other board members before the select committee to respond to different queries.
The NSSF Board has nine members and Lyomoki is one of the four workers union representatives. The Board of Directors is the governing body of the Fund and it is accountable for reviewing, evaluating, and making recommendations about the Fund’s Strategic plan and objectives.
Before the select committee could start, Richard Gafabusa, the Bwamba County MP raised a procedural matter questioning whether the committee was ready to hear from Lyomoki despite allegations he made in a recent petition to Speaker Anita Among regarding the investigation.
On 31st January 2022, Lyomoki wrote to the Speaker saying that the select committee is merely a space of posturing and a space for public humiliation and to injure his integrity and that of his colleague, the COFTU Deputy Secretary General, Peninnah Tukamwesiga in order to sanitize an already concluded decision against them.
“Last week I saw a copy of a letter by Dr. Sam Lyomoki belittling this committee and vowing never to appear before this committee again. Now, I need your guidance chair about a member of the board who made such a conclusion…whether we are proceeding well to have him here when he has not withdrawn that letter or even apologized before the committee,” said MP Gafabusa.
Mwine Mpaka, the Chairperson of the Committee said that it would not be fair for Dr. Lyomoki to appear before a committee he presumes biased. He asked Lyomoki whether he was comfortable with appearing before the committee.
In his response, Lyomoki confirmed petitioning the Speaker regarding bias considering his first appearance before the committee as a COFTU member.
“I have not been responded to…I stand by the petition I wrote. But since I have come back myself, it is incumbent upon the committee to say whether I should proceed or not and I leave. But my coming back is to give the benefit of the doubt. You invited the board and since I am a member of the board I came, last time I came as a member of COFTU,” said Lyomoki in part.
He pointed out submissions of the petitioner, Job Matua regarding his presence on the NSSF Board and that of his colleague, Peninnah Tukamwesiga.
Mpaka demanded that Lyomoki withdraws his statements about the committee on record or excuses himself from the proceedings since he had no evidence of bias.
“If you wish to appear before the committee, you must withdraw on record the statements you made about this committee being biased. Otherwise, I would not find it of any consequential value for you to appear before the same committee you have reservations about,” said Mpaka.
But Lyomoki insisted that he stands by his petition regarding the committee. Asked to share evidence of bias, he complained about the select committee membership of workers’ representative Charles Bakkabulindi alleging that he has been behind several accusations against him and also funding different activities against him in line with their workers’ union work.
“He has been funding unions to come from this side and the other side…for him, he doesn’t want the centers to co-exist, he has issues with me because of politics. There is a very serious fight between me and him, he doesn’t want to see him,” Lyomoki accused MP Bakkabulindi, who is a member of the National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU).
Bakkabulindi dismissed Lyomoki’s claims saying that the investigations before the select committee were about NSSF activities and not COFTU.
“I don’t have money to fund people for your activities. This committee is interested in facts…allegations without facts are a waste of facts. I know his character, this is the season to talk like that. I was put on the committee by the Speaker and I cannot leave the committee because of someone’s weakness. If he is feeling uncomfortable, it is upon him…he is the one who wrote that nonsensical letter,” said Bakkabulindi.
After the submissions, MP Mwine ruled that there was no evidence of bias submitted and asked Lyomoki to take leave after he declined to withdraw the letter.
“I am going to ask you Dr. Lyomoki to kindly leave this committee,” Mwine directed.
Some of the issues before the select committee regarding Lyomoki is a letter that he wrote to the NSSF management requesting 1 billion Shillings, out of which he received Shillings 100 million in the current financial year 2022/2023.
Besides the 1 billion Shillings request, the select committee earlier learned that NSSF has been availing money to workers’ unions for their private activities under an agreement. The committee has also in the past questioned how the Board handles conflict of interest considering that some of its members are leaders in workers’ unions.
The select committee was named recently to examine corporate governance structures at NSSF, examine circumstances surrounding the appointment of the Managing Director, evaluate the status and safety of savers’ money, examine the extent of stakeholder engagement in decision-making, and inquire into any other matters incidental thereto.
The probe follows corruption allegations at the Fund stemming from a letter to the NSSF board by the Minister of Gender, Betty Amongi letter questioning the reappointment of the former Managing Director, Byarugaba when his contract expired at the end of November 2022.
The NSSF Board led by Dr. Peter Kimbowa endorsed Byarugaba’s reappointment for another five-year term. As a result, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja asked Amongi to proceed with the appointment “as recommended by the Board to avoid any managerial gaps, which can put the workers’ funds at risk”.
Amongi protested the move and instead called for an investigation into the conduct of the former Managing Director while at the fund. She accused him of among others abuse of office and mismanagement of investments. She directed that investigations be conducted within two months in line with a resolution by the Board of directors.
The NSSF Fund currently worth 17 trillion Shillings is mandated by the government through the NSSF Act to provide social security to employees in the private sector. The Fund is supervised by both the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development.