Geraldine Ssali Busuulwa was appointed Deputy Managing Director of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) in 2011 by the then Finance Minister, Syda Bbumba.
On October 29, 2014, she was re-appointed to the same position after a ten-month period served as Acting Managing Director as the Board was in the process of searching for a substantive MD. At a time Mr. Richard Byarugaba was out of office, waiting for the renewal or non-renewal of his contract.
The root cause of Ms Ssali’s wars with NSSF Board
After a ten-month search, Richard Byarugaba was re-appointed Managing Director and Ms. Ssali was reappointed as his deputy. This, according to insiders in NSSF, did not go down well with Ms. Ssali, perhaps, having tasted the benefits that come with the NSSF top job. Her wars with the NSSF Board then started, and according to a source, she then started exhibiting acts of ‘gross insubordination contrary to the Fund’s Human Resource Code of Conduct’ (the Fund’s Human Resources Manual on Policy & Procedures), something that led to her suspension on March 14, 2016. At the time the Board also cited Section 63 of the Employment Act (2006), before sending her on suspension.
While on suspension, Ms. Busuulwa was not allowed to conduct any business on behalf of the Fund or appear at office until her issues were sorted out by the Board. But this did not please her. She had to fight on. And Court would be her destination for relief.
Going to court
In May 2016, Ms. Ssali filed cases in court to have her suspension lifted, and indeed, secured a temporary injunction stopping her suspension. This, reportedly, did not please the current finance minister Matia Kasaija, who asked her to withdraw all the court cases filed against the NSSF Board, in order for her to be reinstated.
But sources say neither Ms. Sali nor her lawyers filed any withdrawal documents with court. In the meantime, the Fund, through its lawyers, shared a draft consent order with Ms. Ssali through her lawyers but no response came forth. “Unless she complies with the directive as agreed with the Minister, she cannot be allowed back to office,” said a statement from the NSSF said at the time.
However, that was no deterrent; having secured the injunction, Ms. Ssali attempted a forceful come back into office but security officers at the Workers House told her they were ‘under strict orders’ to keep her away. Ssali was in the company of her lawyers, and to the Board this was gross indiscipline: she had undermined the Board’s authority vested in them by the Minister.
Shs 1 billion demand
In the ensuing period Ms. Ssali petitioned court to order her supervisors to pay a fine of Shs1 billion and compensation for contempt of court. According to Ms. Ssali, the decision to suspend her was taken after court had issued a temporary injunction to stop her suspension from duty.
Particularly, in the application filed through KM Advocates and Solicitors, Ms. Ssali wanted the NSSF board chairperson Patrick Kaberenge, the MD Richard Byarugaba, jointly with the NSSF, to pay the Shs1 billion fine and compensation.
Ms. Ssali wanted court to declare that the trio disobeyed a court order that reportedly quashed the Board’s decision to deny her access to office.
Shs200 million demand to withdraw the case
In August 2016, Ms Ssali through her lawyers, said she wanted to first be paid Shs200 million that court awarded her for wrongful interdiction before she would withdraw the case against the Fund.
She also wanted the Board to withdraw an appeal contesting the Shs200 million award. But at the time Ms Ssali was back working and enjoying all benefits that the Fund offered to her as deputy managing director. These actions, the Board felt, were not from a worker who had NSSF at heart or somebody on reconciliatory path. It was becoming hard to work with her, or so they thought.
“We had discussed before court to seek an adjournment since her (Ssali) lawyer is absent. However, we also tried to talk to her on withdrawing all cases against the Fund since she is already back in office and enjoying the benefits… and she said we should first pay her the Shs200m award that court ordered NSSF to pay her and also withdraw the appeal contesting the same [the Shs200m award],”a city lawyer representing the NSSF at the time said.
Appraisal for top managers
As Ms Ssali was engaging the Board through her compensation battles, the Board was planning an appraisal for the top three managers at the Fund, something she seemed to unaware of. Time had come in October for the Board to renew contracts of the top managers and therefore the appraisals were a necessity. Ms. Ssali’s performance over the recent years was found wanting, oscillating between A and C, the Board declared. And the Board had no choice but to let her exit NSSF.
Letter to the Finance Minister
A letter to finance minister Matia Kasaija said: “Ms Geraldine Ssali Busuulwa 43, Deputy Managing Director contract should not be renewed but allowed to exit from the Fund. Her performance over the last three years has been just good enough between (A and C) even though she contests that assessment for some period, and most of it alluded to good performance of her direct reports/subordinates.”
The Board added: “During the meeting where the three managers were appraised, Wabwire and Byarugaba were found to have performed excellently and therefore, they have been recommended to retain their job. For Ms Ssali, during her three year contract, she didn’t impress the board and more so, she was abrasive,” the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told EagleOnline. The appraisal finally had Ms Ssali kicked out of NSSF.
Extended court battle
Media reports indicate Ms Ssali plans to go to court over the Board’s failure to renew her contract, but analysts say that this time she is not likely to succeeded, given the appraisal’s ratings.
When the Eagle Online contacted Ms Ssali to give comment for this story, she declined and switched of her phone.