Accountability is the main issue in NSSF saga
The on going investigations by the Parliamentary committee on Commissions , Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises into alleged political meddling in the management of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) has attracted mixed reactions with some sections of the public accusing the independent media of witch-hunting. Far from the truth.
To put the debate in context, the public needs to know and understand the nature and net worth of the National Social Security Fund and the managers’ legal obligations. The managers of NSSF have a legal duty to manage the fund in trust of the 299,233 members who make monthly contributions of Shs15b.
This in effect calls for ministers and managers of the fund to take seriously the principles of good governance while executing their various constitutional and legal mandates and the general decorum expected of them in conduct of public affairs.
The fund’s net worth is now estimated at Shs1.1 trillion, which could constitute a sixth of the national budget valued at Shs6 trillion. In short ,we are talking about huge sums of money by Uganda’s standards - let alone the region. And this is workers’ hard earned savings.
It’s not in dispute that the managers of the fund should optimally invest the savings to realise maximum returns for the benefit of the members. What is in issue is the processes -legal and otherwise which have to be strictly adhered to, to guard against illegalities that can ruin otherwise well-intentioned investment decisions. Much has been talked about the Fund’s controversial purchase of the Temangalo land at Shs11b from city businessman Amos Nzeyi and Arma Ltd, a company linked to Security Minister Amama Mbabazi.
There have been issues about the alleged inflated price. This is diversionary and it’s being peddled to side step the bigger issues which are basically- the flouting of the legally bidding rules of procedure in public procurement and the valued practices of good governance that call for transparency and accountability.
The issues which should be examined before pronouncing anyone guilty, among others are; did NSSF management flout procurement procedures as laid out in the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority rules to give undue advantage to one company or person(s)?
Was there undue political influence peddling on part of a senior government officer to secure the deal for a company in which he has declared interest? Was there a cover –up of this political pressure by creating ad- hoc 3rd parties (creation of power of attorney) to facilitate expedient completion of the transaction?
Can this cover-up be construed to mean a direct conflict of interest on all the parties involved in the deal- an act which is against the principles of good governance and the provisions of the Leadership Code Act?
The Solicitor General Mr Billy Kainamura stated in his testimony before the committee that his office was only involved when the negotiations and deal was as good as sealed. He also acknowledged that NSSF never followed the PPDA rules of procurement.
And wait a minute, shouldn’t the accused officers in this matter step aside to allow for a free and fair hearing? It’s standard procedure that once a serious public inquiry of this nature is instituted –those accused take leave of their offices to avoid prejudicing the investigations let alone tampering with evidence.
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
The writer is a journalist and advocate