Parliament has reached a consensus on which ministry will supervise the operations and activities of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).
There has been a big contestation on whether the supervisory role of NSSF funds should be under the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development or remain under the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development under the new NSSF (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which is currently before Parliament.
While debating the report of the Committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development on the NSSF (Amendment) Bill, 2021 on Tuesday, 23, November, 2021, MPs agreed on the dual supervisory role of NSSF with Gender Ministry taking the lead on supervising social security which includes mobilising and empowering communities to harness their potential while protecting the rights of vulnerable population groups and promoting issues of labour productivity and employment, social protection, gender equality rights and equity, human rights, culture and empowerment. On the other hand, the role of the Ministry of Finance will only be limited to matters of finance and investments.
The NSSF Bill that was first passed by the 10th Parliament on 17, February, 2021, before it was returned to the House by President Yoweri Museveni, seeks to among others allow midterm access of up to 20 per cent to members who have reached the age of 45 years and above and also seeks to streamline the supervision of the Shs15trillion NSSF Fund.
The 10th Parliament had voted that the Ministry of Finance retains the supervisory role of the Fund following the President’s rejection of dual supervision saying it was causing delays in decision making. According to the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hon Betty Amongi, this contest has since been harmonized with the two Ministries.
“The sticky issue has been the mandate between Ministry of Gender and Ministry of Finance, but we have reached a consensus that we shall introduce clauses 13, 14, 15, 16, 18 and 19 which will amend sections 30,31, 32, 33, 35, 36 of the Principal Act, to provide for financial matters to be handled by Ministry of Finance and the rest of the roles shall be by the ministry of Gender and at an appropriate time I will move the amendments,” Amongi said.
The Gender Committee Chairperson, Hon Kabahenda Flavia allayed fears that the Fund will still grow even when placed under the Ministry of Gender, urging that indeed it was right to allow social security to be managed by Gender ministry, while Finance ministry handles the financing part.
“The Ministry of Finance is ably represented on the board of directors of NSSF and the entire retirement benefits sector and has a say in how the finances and investments of NSSF are handled. Placing social security under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance would compromise the effective running of the scheme,” Kabahenda said.
Budadiri East MP Nandala Mafabi tasked the House to streamline the roles of the two ministries in managing NSSF saying for years, there has been back and forth row on which ministry supervises the Fund.
“By saying that this bill will be managed by two ministers, we need to put interpretations clearly stating what each minister is supposed to do. You recall that the Ministry of Finance first took over this Fund because they were looking for money and yet they had no role. We contested and now they are trying to bring out their role. You may also recall that when Hon Rukutana [Mwesigwa] was in Finance, he fought that NSSF is taken to Finance and when he was taken to Gender, he again rushed to grab it back. So we must be very clear so that we avoid ministers grabbing the Fund,” Nandala said.
By end of the plenary sitting, the House had passed clauses 1, 2, 3 with amendment which talk about the commencement date of the Act, supervising ministry and powers of the Managing Director as a Board member of the Fund respectively. The House also considered clauses 4, 5, 6 without amendments and stood over clause 7 on fines and penalties to employers who deduct voluntary contributions on behalf of their employees and fail to remit the same to the fund.
The House will resume scrutinizing the remaining clauses of the Bill on Wednesday, 24, November, 2021 and subsequently pass it.