The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Managing Director Richard Byarugaba is serving his third term, the longest-serving MD in the history of the once-troubled organization.
However, since assuming leadership, Mr. Byarugaba has transformed the Fund into a user-friendly entity, with members now able to enjoy a raft of benefits as they gravitate towards retirement, or even while in retirement.
Below are some of the initiatives taken by the current management to turn around the Fund, giving hope to the members.
The NSSF Strategic Plan 2015-2025: The foundation of steady progress
Two years ago, Mr. Byarugaba presented a ten-year strategic plan to members as a foundation for the Fund’s development, concluding in 2025.
According to Mr Byarugaba, the strategic plan aims at giving the Fund’s members a better life, and the plan is delivering on the promise.
The strategy is service focused, people-centred, technology-based to grow the fund and is to help NSSF become the social security provider of choice in the Ugandan pension sector. It calls for member participation more so through compliance through the remission of monthly contributions.
Following the tenets of the strategy, NSSF administrators want to provide members with customer experience; not just the best but legendary and gone are the days when members had to struggle to get information regarding their savings. Today, the members are updated on all transactions.
This strategy, Mr Byarugaba says, was informed by a survey carried out to establish members’ concerns which include safety of savings, accessible and timely service and relevance in the entire life cycle.
Through the strategy, the NSSF promises to give real rate of return to members and ensure that they get access to several service channels including e-portals and alerts.
Relationship management is part of what the managers at NSSF are doing, which they say is good for growth.
“Value-adding products catering for the social security needs are being provided such as short term loans for housing, education, health and business,” a senior official at the Fund told EagleOnline.
According to the official, the strategy to deliver customer experience is being built on NSSF’s strong financial base, excellence in business processes, as well as a delightful place ‘to work all the time and every time’.
“To build a strong financial base and grow the fund, managers will continue to improve compliance levels, diversify investment portfolio and roll out new voluntary saving products such as the voluntary savings scheme,” he added.
The Fund’s investment portfolio is in three major asset classes; Fixed Income, Equity and Real Estate, and as a way of diversification the NSSF has started on the development of its real estate projects, investment in securities. The recent commissioning of the US$400 million Lubowa Housing Project is a just one of them.
Other real estate investments include the Shs15.5 billion Mbuya Housing Project, the Shs3.3 billion Jinja Commercial Complex, the upcoming Mbarara Commercial Complex and the Pension Towers. In line are ‘off-taker’ projects in Kasangati, Ssonde and Garuga. All these are part of the strategy.
Further, NSSF, as way of diversification, has appetite for investment in infrastructure projects, private equity funds, corporate bonds and asset-backed securities.
With a strong financial base NSSF managements hopes to grow total fund to Shs 20 trillion by 2025 and keep administration costs below 1% of Assets.
Currently NSSF has assets worth fund is at Shs7.924 trillion, and managers also are to develop products for a life partners of the Fund including long term health facilitation in retirement.
The Fund also wants to give medium term health, education and housing benefits. In the short term, members are expected to get loans for housing, education and health needs.
And by 2025, the target is to process age benefit payment within two days.
“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile; we will go the extra mile for our customers,” Mr Byarugaba says.
According to Mr. Byarugaba, to make the NSSF a delightful place to work, management wants to improve staff competence to 85%, with professional certification, enhance performance culture and align it with reward to performance. The management of the Fund also wants create a ‘talent pool’ and think tank.
“The objectives are to have a motivated staff with an engagement index of more than 90%,” Byarugaba says.
Byarugaba believes that a motivated and engaged workforce, supported by excellent processes and a strong financial base that delivers superior results, will all work together to give members a reason to choose to stay with the Fund.
The NSSF Board Chairman Patrick Kaberenge said that the Fund is steadily progressing towards achieving a total Fund value of Shs20 trillion in 2025 because of an effective corporate governance framework that is delivering tangible benefits to the Fund, as well as a strong leadership team.
Indeed, many members believe the re-appointment of Mr Byarugaba as MD for the next five years is good for the strategy to achieve its objectives as he is the one who launched it.
Further, they say that with the help of his new deputy Patrick Ayota and Corporation Secretary Richard Wejuli Wabwire, Mr. Byarugaba’s dream of positioning NSSF as the region’s number one pension Fund surely can be achieved.
The inaugural NSSF Annual Members Meeting: Rejuvenating the Fund
The first ever NSSF Annual Members Meeting was held on March 19, 2013, less than three years after the current Managing Director Richard Byarugaba assumed office.
The NSSF Annual Members Meeting is about members. It is a gathering where NSSF managers listen to members voices.
The introduction of the Annual Members Meeting was welcomed by members who for long had been kept in the darkness when it came to the Fund’s activities. Indeed, for the members the annual meeting is transparency at work.
This is because the board and management use the occasion to explain the performance of the Fund in terms of annual financial statements, investments, expenditures and how they arrive at the interest rates paid to members.
NSSF Voluntary Membership Plan: Attracting more savers
In June this year, NSSF has launched a Voluntary Membership Plan that will provide employers and workers that are not compelled by the mandatory provisions of the NSSF Act the opportunity to voluntarily save for their retirement. The Fund also introduced a mobile money platform through which it will receive voluntary savings through its code *254#.
According to Mr. Byarugaba, the Fund is responding to the need for a voluntary savings option by many Ugandans as well as enhancing the Fund’s growth strategy in terms of membership and contributions.
“The Plan will enable us recruit and register two types of voluntary members – Voluntary Employers – Under NSSF (Voluntary Registration and Contributions) Regulations, and Individual Voluntary Contributors with specific reference to Sections 10 (1) and 10 (3) of the NSSF Act respectively,” he said about the new initiative.
Under its provisions, NSSF will recruit and register employers with less than 5 employees as well as accept contributions from former NSSF members who were paid their respective benefits, but are still able and willing to save with the Fund.
According to Mr. Byarugaba, there is a potential customer base of close to two million workers who do not have any form of social security cover out of about four million Ugandans working in the formal sector. The former group needs to be tapped into, he says.
“We have been piloting this plan in the market and it has been well received. As at end of May 2017, we had recruited 3,017 voluntary employers, and have collected over Ugx 2.6 billion,” he says.
“In addition, we recently carried out a survey and about 19% of workers in the formal sector who do not have social security cover told us they would start saving as soon as the Fund started a Voluntary Membership Plan, which is about 836,000 people. There is also an additional 700,000 former members of the Fund whose accounts are currently inactive mainly because their employers no longer remit contributions, or are now self-employed. They would like to continue save with us,” Mr. Byarugaba added.
In addition to receiving contributions, the Fund is also set to start paying its members who qualify for their benefits through mobile money via its existing NSSFGO code *254# accessible to the MTN and Airtel subscribers.
And Byarugaba said that mobile money is a channel the Fund must embrace not only for the convenience of contributors and beneficiaries but also because it offers a number of other advantages.
Membership growth: The strength of numbers
The Fund has registered consistent membership growth over the last six years; last financial year over 106,000 new members and over 2,800 employers were registered. The Voluntary Savings Plan is expected to accelerate this growth in the medium and long terms, Mr Byarugaba notes.
Meanwhile, statistics indicate the number of new employees registering with the Fund has increased from 106,434 in the 2014/15 to 119,571 in the last financial year. The number of new employers registering their workers with the NSSF grew by 2,887 in the 2015/16 financial year.
NSSF Torch Awards: Rewarding innovation and selflessness
In line with its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agenda, in 2012, NSSF launched Torch Awards, an initiative through which the Fund recognises and supports projects run by institutions or individuals that have transformed communities and made a difference through those projects.
In order to ensure transparency, the NSSF places adverts in the media calling for submissions of project proposals from institutions or individuals that have changed lives of the community targeting; Youth, Education, Health and the Disadvantaged.
“To date, eight projects that have gone on to impact communities have been recognised and given financial support totalling to Shs150m since Torch Awards were launched in 2012. Projects that have benefited from this initiative include 40 Days Over 40 Smiles Foundation (40-40), Childcare and Rescue Home, Youth and Women Empowerment Foundation, among others,” Mr. Byarugaba says.
NSSF ‘Friends with Benefits’ Financial Literacy Campaign: Giving hope to members
Last year the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) launched a savings and financial literacy campaign dubbed ‘Friends with Benefits’ aimed at educating its members and the general public about a savings culture and better usage of benefits.
The campaign runs as a TV show programme profiling retired workers who invested or used their NSSF benefits to transform their lives, and those of the communities around them.
While addressing journalists at the launch of the campaign at Workers House, the Managing Director said: The campaign aims at showcasing inspiration success stories from members who have received and used their benefits to change their lives, those of their families and even the communities they live in so as to motivate existing and potential members to invest in retirement savings.”
At the same function Barbra Arimi, the NSSF Head of Marketing and Communications said Friends with Benefit will inspire so many Ugandans.
“Our objective is to inspire both our existing and potential members, especially the younger generation to save for their retirement. As was the case in the first season, we shall showcase stories of willing NSSF beneficiaries to demonstrate various projects one can undertake to improve their lives using their NSSF benefits,” Ms. Arimi said.
And this was proved; following the inaugural campaign held last year, the Fund registered a significant increment in its Voluntary saving plan with over 400 people joining the plan and shs670, 000,000 collected between the months of September and December when the TV show aired.
As part of the campaign, participants are required to submit a short and compelling story, stating how they utilized their NSSF savings and transformed their lives.
A case in point is that of Harriet Balyama, who applied for her benefits when she discovered she had a brain tumor. She used her savings for treatment and the balance to complete her housing project. She was one of the over 500 applicants and emerged winner of the campaign, walking away with shs30m which she used to complete construction of rental units. She says poverty now lives in the past!
The Friends with Benefits second season will run for a period of 6 months, and started with the call for submissions on October 4.
NSSF Whistleblower Platform: Helping improve remissions
In January, National NSSF unveiled a web-based whistleblower platform for aggrieved employees to report employers who fail to remit their contributions to the Fund, as required by the law.
Announcing the platform at the time, Mr. Byarugaba said that over 25,000 employers were meant to pay NSSF contributions, but 12,000 of those are not complying and of the 13,000 who are complying only 8,900 are consistently remitting NSSF contributions for their employees.
“These figures show that a significant number of workers are being cheated out of their benefits by their employers,” Mr. Byarugaba noted, adding that the whistleblower platform would help bring more contributors on board.
“It is illegal for an employer to withhold their employees’ social security contributions. The campaign is aimed at empowering employees to be vigilant and speak out to ensure that their employers remit their savings to the Fund. We do believe that when employers are compliant, workers will have an opportunity to save for their retirement,” Mr. Byarugaba said.
He noted that anonymity of the whistleblower is the main aspect of the platform, put into consideration during the design stage.
“The safety of any whistleblower is of utmost importance, we have taken all the necessary steps to ensure that the identity of whoever reports cases of non-compliance is not revealed to the public, in line with the Whistleblowers Act,” Mr. Byarugaba said.
Communication channels: Embracing emerging trends
Through different channels like Website, SMS, Kiosks, emails and NSSF app, members can check their statements and find out if their money is being remitted on a monthly basis and in the right amount. In order to report an employer who is not remitting contributions, an employee can log onto www.nssfug.org or call 0417331557/07.