KAMPALA – Speaker Rebecca Kadaga has revealed plans by Parliament to the contentious debate that would require the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) to pay savers part of their savings amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
Kadaga made the revelation during an interview with NBS television in which she said it was about time, Parliament took up its legislative role to amend the NSSF Act and make it responsive to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s the argument that people should access their savings before 50 years. What’s the point of me saving money and I die; and other people use it. I’m hungry now. This is something we need to discuss as Parliament,” said Kadaga.
For the past three weeks, NSSF has waged a publicity campaign against some of its savers demanding to use their savings to clear loans and use their money as coronavirus ravaged the world.
The move followed a complaint raised by four-time Presidential candidate Kizza Besigye who questioned why the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) isn’t considering the option of making [atrial payment to its members amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fund rejected the proposal arguing that the move would likely crash Uganda’s economy.
Besigye took to his Twitter handle writing, “It’s surprising that NSSF hasn’t, as yet, rolled out a program to paying out a portion of members’ savings to afford them vital support through the COVID-19 crisis. Isn’t this what “Social Security”, a safety net, is about? This is a world crisis of unprecedented proportions!”
Richard Byarugaba, Managing Director NSSF issued a statement stating that about 80% of the Fund’s assets are invested in Government Treasury Bonds and partial payments would affect the economy.
He said, “If the Fund was to pay all its members a portion of their savings, it would amount to government buying back its bonds for use to raise liquidity. This would leave Government short of locally mobilised funds for its social and economic intervention, which would have a more devastating effect on the economy in the long term.”
However, Besigye fired back at NSSF stating that investing 80% Fund’s assets in Treasury bonds was grossly imprudent but bonds are tradable on the market.
Byarugaba also said that although the Fund empathises with its members in the face of the uncertainties resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no legal basis upon which NSSF would implement sentiments regarding the need for partial payments from the Fund.
Byarugaba wrote, “However, the Fund has no legal basis upon which to make ad hoc payments as being suggested. NSSF is a social security scheme, created to provide a safety net for members in case of old age, permanent incapacitation or for dependents in the event of death of a member. The current pandemic does not meet any of the above criteria.”
NSSF also argued that partial payments would be discriminatory, “The Fund has about 1.5million members. If these were given relief from the Funds, the vast majority of the 19million working population would be left out.”
However, many Twitter users scoffed at that argument describing it as laughable, Besigye quoted Section 25(h) of NSSF Act gives Minister power to provide for “conversion of benefit into installments or other forms of periodic payments. “Can’t be discriminatory-laughable!” said Besigye whose the response was backed by many of his followers.
NSSF stated that there is no need to make a partial payment to its members because the Fund is confident that the Government is putting in place measures to lessen the economic impact caused by the VOVID-19 pandemic.
Besigye was later joined by Vision Group CEO, Robert Kabushenga and Morrison Rwakakamba, Chairman Uganda Investment Authority who argued that the decision by NSSF to hide behind laws and deny its savers partial savings smells corporate arrogance at its highest level.