The chairman General of National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) Usher Wilson Owere has said that Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka is the one to blame for the mess at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).
While appearing before the select committee that was instituted by Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga to investigate the NSSF, Owere said that the problems of the fund started when Kiwanuka was appointed minister.
He said that the minister started by irregularly dismantling the arrangement when she fired the then board chairman and replaced him with Ivan Kyayonka.
Owere added that the same minister has denied the fund proper leadership by refusing to appoint the people that were interviewed and emerged as best candidates. He told the committee that the fund used about 500 million shillings to contract a firm that interviewed the candidates.
He said that the names of the best candidates as was selected by Price Water House Coopers, a firm that was contracted to conduct interviews, were sent to the minister three months ago but she has never appointed a substantive Managing Director to replace Richard Byarugaba. He asked why the fund is running without leadership yet a lot of money was spent to recruit these managers in positions of MD deputy MD and corporation secretary.
Owere said that the minister has been doing a lot of maneuvers to have her favourite individuals in Managerial positions adding that she asked the acting MD Geraldine Ssali to also re-apply for the position but wasn’t selected after the interviews. He suggested that the committee investigates what interests Kiwanuka has in Ssali to the extent of calling her out of maternity leave to continue acting as MD when she could appoint a substantive one.
He further faulted Minister Kiwanuka for adamantly refusing to take action after knowing that the fund fraudulently bought shares in Umeme. Owere said that the workers have asked to meet the minister a number of times but she has turned their requests down adding that she shouldn’t be a minister in charge of workers’ funds if she can’t listen to them.
He added that the workers also demand that NSSF be removed from Ministry of Finance and be put under the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
He said that it is inconceivable that NSSF doesn’t even have a desk in Ministry of Finance leaving all its matters to be handled by the minister.
The investigation in the fund began when Aruu County MP Odonga Otto said there were issues of gross mismanagement, and irregular recruitment of workers among others.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga in July named a five-member Select Committee to probe the allegations of nepotism and unfair recruitment at NSSF; illegal purchase of Umeme shares; irregular disposal of the NSSF assets and any other matter related to the mismanagement.
The Fund has had tumultuous decades of internal administration with almost all its managing directors being forced out under corruption allegations.
Former NSSF board chairperson Geoffrey Onegi-Obel is still in court answering charges related to the bungled Nsimbe housing project. He faces charges of abuse of office and causing financial loss of 8 billion shillings in the project’s 5,000 housing units that were to be used for residential and commercial purposes.
Obel was initially charged with Leonard Mpuuma, the fund’s former managing director who pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay 100 million shillings to NSSF in 2006.
Mpuuma’s successor, David Chandi Jamwa, was in 2011 sentenced to 12 years in jail after the anti-corruption court found him guilty of causing the NSSF a loss of three billion shillings in the controversial Temangalo land purchase. Jamwa was later granted bail. In what came to be known as the Temangalo scandal, the Fund bought land belonging to Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and business associates for more than 11 billion shillings.