I forget which #Ugandan said it but he made it short and sweet. Put grass hoppers in a jar, seal it and watch them devour each other. I do not suppose many have ever paid attention to the key executives of the NSSF. This is why I am the best Financial Adviser for Uganda. Dig a hole in your back yard, put your money into that hole. Plant grass on top of it. WAIT, now that everyone knows this, do not disclose your GPS coordinates except to me. Well, you can always mobile money me your money. WAIT, I think you should buy Oil or Gold. You see, I am also a Problem Solver... my ribs are broken.. hahaha. Please get land titles, this is serious though. The rest are jokes. Land is crucial and you all have access to it. But if you do not get land titles, hey, do not blame me in the future. We grow food. I saw some people celebrating the return on NSSF this week and I was yelling at the wall -- ROI.. ROI, ROI... how much money were they playing with? This is a public fund.. show us all the financials instead of throwing out just numbers.. We are also good with number fudging. So exactly how much did you get to invest over this period you are talking about? What were your expenses? We need to know your expenses? Stop throwing numbers around especially after how much has been in your media about the vanishing money. Oh.. you mean you did not know that some of your people read the financials. Show us the numbers and then we will kiss your feet. This is a new day. Welcome to your life.
The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Deputy Managing Director, Geraldine Ssali has fired back at the chairman board of directors Uganda Retirements Benefits Regulatory Authority (URBRA), Andrew Kasirye, warning him against sending her “misplaced” letters and that he should “provide wise counsel that unites us… not to act as a divisive catalyst.”
Chimpreports on Wednesday broke the news that a bitter war had broken out between Ssali and Kasirye over the controversial Retirement Benefits Sector Liberalisation Bill.
On January 8, Kasirye wrote to NSSF MD Richard Byarugaba, warning Ssali against holding a retreat to sensitise MPs on the proposed legislation which seeks to trim down the “monopolistic powers” of NSSF by opening up the pensions sector to private competition, where other licensed retirement benefits schemes and companies are allowed to participate.
Kasirye wrote: “I was disappointed to learn that your Deputy MD wrote a letter directly to the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Finance, Planning and Economic Development proposing that NSSF would organise a two-day retreat of members of Parliament to present NSSF’s position on the Retirement Benefits Sector Liberalisation Bill.”
He added: “I discussed this matter with the Hon Minister (Maria Kiwanuka) this week and she requested me to convey her displeasure about your NSSF’s embarking on activities such as the proposed retreat which can result in the further delay of the reforms.”
Kasirye yesterday denied reports that he has vested interests in the Bill, saying URBRA is only a regulator.
But Ugandan economists last night took to social media to express their concerns over Kasirye’s motive of blocking an engagement between NSSF and MPs.
The MPs need information before passing the law and were expected to meet a team from NSSF at the retreat at Commonwealth Resort, Munyonyo on Thursday, January 22.
Kasirye said the “purpose of this letter is to convey my disappointment with the conduct of the Deputy MD who continues to publicly object and oppose the government’s proposed reforms in the retirement benefits sector.”
He also told Byarugaba to “take full responsibility and leadership over the management actions at the NSSF.”
Ssali on January 15 responded angrily to Kasirye’s letter, saying, “A fact to be considered is that, I am also the Chairperson of the Transition committee that was set up by the board of directors to support the Transition of the Fund into Liberalisation. Therefore, I’m not only the Deputy Managing Director of the Fund, but also have an active role to play in this matter.”
She added: “Sadly, upon the receipt of your letter, I contacted you requesting a meeting, to which you declined and requested for a written response to your letter. You as a leader and a regulator, are meant to provide wise counsel that unites us in this subject not to act as a divisive catalyst.”
Ssali further observed that letter from URBRA was “misplaced and not valid for purpose,” adding, “expressing your dissatisfaction of my decision to implement executive decisions of the board was an error in judgment.”
She hit Kasirye hard: “Let it be borne in your mind that NSSF executive management is there to implement decisions of the board. This fact you should be aware of. Asking me not to implement such decisions is outside your mandate. However, where you are not content with a board decision, please communicate directly to the chairman of the board of directors.”
The latest developments underline the challenges faced by URBRA to open up the NSSF, which activists say will dismember the Fund and open up people’s savings for capitalistic money makers and sharks.
Former Finance Minster, Prof. Ezra Suruma says there seems to be an absence of consciousness of social responsibility for the weaker citizens.
“Surely even the most pure capitalism has not reached this level of irresponsibility. If economic advancement and civilisation mean anything, it is the growth in consciousness and capacity to look after the people and not abandonment which is euphemistically referred to as Liberalism,” he argues.
Kasirye told Chimpreports yesterday that his letter was not offensive.
However, Ssali says, “The tone and rhetoric in your (Kasirye) letter was simply not necessary, neither was it appreciated. At our level as the executive, we are leaders and take decisions that are both strategic and for the benefit of our members and the country at large. Both the World Bank and The parliament of Uganda in their communications recognise The National Security Fund as a key stakeholder in the reform of the retirement benefits sector in the country.”
She added: “It was therefore wrong for you to assume that this consultation exercise being undertaken by the committee of parliament may simply serve to delay the reforms. Regrettably, the subject under contention is not a regulatory matter but rather a parliamentary consultation process which is necessary in their duty as they make law for the people of Uganda. The issues on hand will have adverse effects on all Ugandans and future generations to come.”
Neighbouring Kenya pioneered the liberalisation of the pensions sector 10 years ago; but after interfacing with competition and realising that the private sector cannot guarantee social security, reversed the policy and enacted a new NSSF Act 2013 making the government owned NSSF a mandatory social insurance scheme for all Kenyans.
Other countries like Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa, and Sierra Leone have also preserved their NSSF institutions as a mandatory scheme.
Proponents of the new arrangement hold that due to massive changes in the population demographics of Ugandans and costs of living, government investments in pension has increasingly found it hard to keep some of the promises it makes to its citizens, resulting in perennial pension arrears and losses.
They further cite poor governance – where people’s savings have been lost in bad and risky NSSF investments; lack of fiscal sustainability and inadequate pensions, leading to people’s disorientation from the saving tradition.
The NSSF Deputy Managing Director further said, “The management of the Fund through the Managing director and the Chairman of the board have always sent quarterly reports and updates to the minister (Kiwanuka) on issues pertaining the Fund.”
Ssali said in a meeting held on the 19th December 2014, Kiwanuka further requested for a report on the Fund’s position on the Liberalisation bill 2011 and gave guidelines on the same.
“A report is being prepared for submission to the minister on the same. Management remains committed in updating the minister in every matter pertaining the Fund from time to time,” she informed Kasirye.
Ssali said the importance and need to work harmoniously with both the Ministry and the other stakeholders, including the URBRA, in driving engagements and issues precursor to reforms in the sector is most appreciated.
Following the Parliamentary committee’s visit to Ghana, said Ssali, the Managing Director of the Fund has on separate occasions been in consultation with the Honourable Minister, Kasirye and the interim CEO at URBRA on the 2nd and 6th January, 2015.
“Going forward, we kindly request that if any challenge arises out of any board decisions (or other) in the course of bringing this bill into law, please call the said parties to a meeting and accord them a fair hearing or communicate to the Fund through Chairman of the board,” Ssali charged.
“We trust that the management of NSSF will continue to carry out their duties without any fear of reprisal from the regulator. I reiterate the Fund’s commitment and support to the reform process and will continue sharing our input with all stakeholders including URBRA and my lady, the Honorable Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.”
Opening Remarks By
Martha Leah Zesaguli (Nangalama)
Masters, Information Science, University of Toronto, Canada
Network Infrastructure Analyst with Exxonmobil Business Support Centre
Born and Raised in Uganda (Bududa District)