The National Social Security Fund has dismissed allegations that its board had sanctioned the construction of the stalled pension towers at a much higher cost as baseless.
The fund, in a response to the local media stated that they are at the infancy stage and therefore, no money has been allocated by the board to start construction.
“An independent third party procurement agent contracted has commenced the process of procuring a contractor. The financial figures involved in this project were never arrived at by any individual manager or board member but scientifically determined by the project consultants based on technical requirements to complete the project and an independent market assessment” reads the statement.
Adding “The Fund cannot at this point disclose the financial information relating to this project as this could jeopardize the procurement process. The details are kept confidential to maintain”
The local media quoted allegations contained in a dossier to the government’s ombudsman (Inspector General of Government) that fund’s board had approved a hiked budget contrary to that of 2012 and the second accusation was that the fund had secretly given money to Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija to fund his political campaigns. However, Mr .Kasaija has dismissed the allegations and threatened to sue whoever is responsibly making such accusation.
In the dossier, it also alleges that the fund’s Managing Director has been soliciting for commission on the fixed deposits in commercial bank.
However, the dossier to IGG, comes at the time when the fund’s board had just suspended the Deputy Managing Director, Geraldine Ssali who later on sued both the board and the Managing Director Richard Byarugaba.
According to inside sources, ever since Mr Byarugaba returned to the fund for his second term as MD, Ms Ssali and him haven’t been reading from same page. It is alleged that Ssali who acted as MD for more than six months when Byarugaba’s first term had ended had a back-up of former Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka and board chairman late Ivan Kyayonga against Byarugaba for the job and hence the bad blood. Inside sources are also questioning independence of the IGG investigators given that Ms Ssali at one time recommended Justice Irene Mulyajonya’s daughter to work in NSSF without going through the recruitment process.
Response to Media reports containing allegations against NSSF
We refer to press reports published in the New Vision on Monday May 16, 2016 and today May 29, 2016 in the Sunday Monitor arising out of a letter by a whistleblower containing allegations against the Fund in relation to Pension Towers, financing of political campaigns and commissions from commercial banks. NSSF hereby informs its members that the Fund has consistently for the last four (IV) Financial Years received an unqualified opinion from the Auditor General’s Office and a satisfactory rating of 83 per cent from the Public Procurement and Disposal Authority in its just concluded audit of the Fund in March 2016. In this regard, we proceed to clarify the following:-
PENSION TOWERS The letter published in the New Vision of May 16, 2016, made allegations of impropriety in the structuring and procurement of Pension Towers. The decision by NSSF to undertake commercial developments on Plot 15A/B Lumumba Avenue (Pension Towers) was conceived in the year 2000. Phase I of the project was completed in 2012. On October 31, 2012, the Inspectorate of Government (IGG) directed the Fund to stay any transactions with respect to procurement of the contractor for Phase II. On January 17, 2013, the IGG recommended a fresh procurement process be initiated and outsourced to a third party procurement consultant. In April 2015, having considered the financial feasibility review report, the NSSF Board set a fixed budget to execute all the outstanding works. In June 2015, owing to concerns of deterioration of the existing structure, the Fund requested the Ministry of Works and Transport in liaison with M/S Ssentoogo and Partners (project consultant) to undertake a study on the extent of deterioration. In their separate reports, both recommended that the Fund expedites all pending actions leading to resumptions of works for Phase II taking into consideration the security and structural deterioration risks. Based on the independent market assessment conducted by the Project consultant, the Board approved commencement of the process to procure a contractor for full development of the project to completion. An independent third party procurement agent contracted has commenced the process of procuring a contractor. The financial figures involved in this project were never arrived at by any individual manager or board member but scientifically determined by the project consultants based on technical requirements to complete the project and an independent market assessment. The Fund cannot at this point disclose the financial information relating to this project as this could jeopardize the procurement process. The details are kept confidential to maintain the integrity of the process FIXED DEPOSITS IN COMMERCIAL BANKS In regards to the above allegations, published in both publications made allegations of impropriety in the decisions involving placement of fixed deposits with commercial banks. The decision to invest money in fixed deposits with commercial banks is made in accordance with the Fund’s Investment Policy Guidelines approved by the Board and the Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority. The Fund invests in commercial banks that meet Bank of Uganda minimum capital requirements and the Fund’s risk ratings. This process ensures that the Fund’s fixed deposits investments are transparent and not open to individual negotiations, manipulations and commissions of any sort.
FINANCING OF POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS Allegations were also made that the Fund made contributions to political causes of certain individuals and organisations. The regulatory framework governing management of members’ funds does not allow for expenditure outside the remit of the Investment Policy. Expenditure and investment of member funds is rigorously regulated by law, and the Fund’s accounts are subjected to scrutiny and audit by the Auditor General. The allegations are incorrect and unfounded as no contributions from the Fund have been made to any individual or political organization and in the spirit of transparency, our books and accounts are open for inspection and verification by appropriate independent authorities.
CONCLUSION The Fund regrets the allegations that are contained in the letter carried in both Sunday Monitor and New Vision. We pledge utmost cooperation with the office of Inspector General of Government in the event they proceed to pursue this matter. Management reassures the members of the safety of their savings. The Fund is governed in a transparent and ethical manner to ensure that there is secure, profitable and effective financial management for the benefit of t