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Sunday, 02 April 2023
Ayota downplays political influence fears into NSSF operations

Ayota downplays political influence fears into NSSF operations

The National Social Security Fund-NSSF is on the way to achieving above the target set for the year 2022/2023, according to the Acting Managing Director, Patrick Ayota. The bright outlook is based on the performance over the last six months.

The Fund’s records show that half year collections amounted to 786 billion shillings compared to the 643 billion recorded for the same period of the last financial year, while its income topped 1.05 trillion shillings.

In comparison, by December 2021, the Fund’s total revenues (income realized from its businesses) amounted to 900 billion shillings.

The projection is being made amidst increasing uncertainty amongst the members of the Fund over the delay to appoint a substantive Managing Director, allegations of corruption and political influence, as well as interference in the daily running of the fund by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.

Among the allegations were claims that Betty Amongi, the supervising minister asked the Fund to avail her ministry with six billion shillings to run campaigns related to the fund’s growth and compliance, yet the ministry has its own budget.

A section of the workers’ movement, which is a constituency on the Fund’s Board, alleged that the refusal by former MD Richard Byarugaba to release the money is one of the reasons the minister is opposed to his highly expected reappointment.

National Organisation of Trade Unions national chairman, Wilson Owere alleged that when Patrick Ayota was reappointed Deputy MD and made Acting Chief Executive, he directed the finance development to pass the minister’s request in the Funds budget for next year.

Ayota, who addressed the media for the first time on the matter, denied the allegations, staking his reputation and experience.

However, Ayota refused to specifically comment on the allegations surrounding the management and board, especially as that would affect the reappointment of the MD, saying it would be prejudicial.

On the allegations about state officials taking out money from the fund, Ayota acknowledged that many, as well as private people and institutions, have tried to, but that the procedure and laws do not allow them to succeed.

He also denied ever attending any meeting called by General Salim Saleh at his Kapeeka base over NSSF operations, saying he was not even invited to it. He however said that in his view, there was nothing wrong with anyone meeting General Saleh.

It is said that at the meeting, General Saleh was opposed to Byarugaba’s reappointment because of his negative attitude towards proposals to enable NSSF directly finance development activities related to the National Development Plan.

These according to a letter attributed to Minister Among, include financing agricultural production, processing and export, with a specific proposal to invest 40 billion shillings into the Grain Council of Uganda.

In his remarks however, Ayota explains how the Fund is directly helping farmers and other small-holder businesses to thrive and create jobs in the economy, under the NSSF through their incubator programmes.

Ayota says the NSSF management and board will welcome any idea that can make their operations and plans for the economy better, but that they will remain focused on protecting the savers’ Fund.

He says they are excited that the ‘wind’ has so far not affected the Fund’s operations, as shown by the steady growth in performance over the last half year.

Ayota warns against any attempts to fully liberalise the Pension Sector, which would also mean the privatization of the NSSF management, as proposed in 2012/2013. This was part of the debate that saw the sector partly liberalized and private players allowed under the Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority Act.

The move to open NSSF to private competition was defeated at the time when it was just emerging from managerial upheavals. Ayota says that would be a disaster for the whole fund, remove the guarantee of an annual return of at least 2.5 percent by law, while the state control ensures that savers will always have their funds available on demand upon qualifying.

He cited the Chilean pension sector is headed for collapse and five-year-long protest by the savers having forced the government there to reverse the decision.

Meanwhile, asked about his chances of becoming substantive MD, Ayota, the former chief finance officer of NSSF, said he cannot gauge the chances, but that he would take it.

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