Some 317 Members of Parliament have allegedly received a cash bonanza of up UGX40m and promised another UGX60m later on.
At least four Members of Parliament confirmed the development yesterday at Parliament and added the bonanza was given only to those 317 obedient MPs who returned the UGX20m that Parliament had granted them ‘illegally’ to support their constituents go through the tough COVID-19 crisis.
Kalungu West MP Joseph Ssewungu told reporters at Parliament that he had himself seen an SMS message sent to one of the beneficiary MPs allegedly from the government Chief Whip revealing the donation.
Ssewungu’s claim was echoed by Kumi municipality MP Monica Amoding, Lwemiyaga county MP Theodore Ssekikubo and Ntungamo Municipality MP Gerald Karuhanga.
The MPs criticised the donation as a naked bribe that was made as an appreciation to the MPs for having moved a motion to praise President Yoweri Museveni’s exemplary handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
Some however added that it could be aimed at soliciting the MP’s support to kill a popular move by workers MPs to amend the National Social Securities Fund (NSSF) Act that seeks to allow savers secure early access to their savings especially during the current COVID-19 economic crisis that has led to loss of jobs.
The alleged bribe follows a popular campaign that included an online petition on change.org that sought to collect 5000 signatures as a sign of support from among the workers that would compel NSSF management or government to amend the law to allow early release of at least 30% of the savings held by the fund.
Moses Ariong, the originator of the Petition had argued that the partial release of savings (30 %) will be a rescue package for millions of Uganda’s who directly depend of the earnings of the 1.5 million members of NSSF.
Section 20 of the NSSF Act, Cap 222 of 1985, provides that members saving with the Fund can only access their benefits when they clock 55 years.
There are clear signs that pressure to amend the NSSF Act has gathered momentum in recent days but that the management of the Fund with support from government, are strongly opposed to it and are lobbying very hard to frustrate the move.
An opinion published by Redpepper and allegedly authored by NSSF’s former Deputy Managing Director Geraldine Ssali, suggests that NSSF and indeed government are not justified to refuse to make an early (20%) payment of members’ savings.
In brief, Ssali says that the Fund not only has provisions that allow it to make a payment but also that it is in the interest of the fund to make itself relevant to its members by showing flexibility to respond to members’ concerns especially during uniquely difficult moments like the current economic crisis.
Part of Ssali’s letter reads thus:
The The Fund management in citing dire negative economic consequences is stealthily and technically avoiding their natural responsibility – The purpose and cause on which NSSF was formed. Any systemic economic risk that was meant to happen due to the global pandemic, Covid-19, is happening right now and there’s nothing NSSF can do about it. This risk is already crystallising in the Ugandan market and every player in the market will feel its heat! So whatever must go wrong is going wrong as we speak. However, the non- systematic risk anticipated by the Fund managers prior to Covid- 19 can be hedged by simple instruments going forward. For example if the treasury desk officers finds that their asset interest rates are falling, they can acquire a liability whose interest rate will offset any loss on that asset. There are simple Zero cost financial instruments being offered by banks in our market like Stanbic, Stanchart, Equity and the like. I’m fully aware that the Fund has got a risk management framework, that takes into account scenarios and simulations like “a run on the Fund” and any competent crisis management plans would have been put in place to cater for such contingencies as standard procedure for any given financial or quasi financial institutions in this market.