Members of the Parliamentary Pension Scheme are lined up to access 20 percent of their contribution when the President assents to an amended bill in accordance with Article 91 of the Constitution.
The Parliamentary Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 2022, introduced as a private member’s bill by workers’ MP Arinaitwe Rwakajara, in July was passed by the House following a lengthy debate during plenary on Wednesday, 07 September 2022
The House voted to introduce a new clause to allow pension scheme members who are 45 years and above, and have saved for at least 10 years to have midterm access to 20 percent of their savings.
Parliament last year passed the National Security Social Fund (NSSF) Amendment Bill, which granted 20 percent midterm access to her eligible members.
During debate on the report on the bill presented by the Chairperson of the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Robina Rwakoojo, members said midterm access to their savings will help contributors to utilise part of their pension constructively as opposed access after retirement.
“It is important that we get money and utilise it when we can still work because this money can come when we have died. In case that a member is serving in Parliament at 70 years, if you deny him midterm access to do his business, you will have denied him his rights,” said Butambala District Woman MP Aisha Kabanda.
Legislators were exultant that mid-term access would rescue contributors from the high interest rates on bank loans.
“This is your pension – this is your money, you have served for 10 years, why should I go to borrow from the bank at 16 percent when my money is lying there,” said Tororo District Woman MP Sarah Opendi.
There were, however, legislators opposed to the provision, arguing that midterm access is likely to deplete the pension scheme’s investment capital and returns.
“This is a small pension scheme. When members withdraw their money, it will affect the scheme’s investment returns in the long run,” said Rubanda District Woman MP Prossy Akampulira and also a Parliamentary Commissioner.
The Minister of State of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (General Duties), Henry Musasizi guided that the provision was premised on a good principle and that it caused no risk to the scheme allowing members to utilise part of their savings.
“The principle is to allow savers to get money to do something when they are still strong. This is not to allow every member to access midterm. If this midterm can be given when a member has saved for 10 years or more I do not see a problem with it,” said Musasizi.
Members, during the sitting chaired by Speaker Anita Among, also adopted a proposal in clause 2 of the bill to increase the rate of contribution made by government to 10 percent and members’ contribution from 15 to 20 percent.
In the new law, contributors are encouraged to make voluntary monthly contribution to the Parliamentary Post-Retirement Medical Fund not exceeding two percent of total contributions to the scheme.
“The committee is of the opinion that post-retirement medical cover is one of the critical requirement of a retiree since after retirement, when the medical cover granted by the Commission is terminated, it leaves retirees destitute and unable to obtain medical treatment due to a reduction in income,” said Rwakoojo.
A new clause was introduced and adopted requiring the Parliamentary Commission to provide retirement benefits to previous Speakers and Deputy Speakers of Parliament and their dependents from 1980.
The bill spells out that they receive a monthly allowance as a percentage of the salary of a sitting House Speaker.
This is justified by the observation by members that Speakers and Deputy Speakers do not contribute to the pension scheme and that some former Speakers and their dependents were living in deplorable conditions.
“We have former Speakers and Deputy Speakers who are moving as destitute, whose children cannot afford anything – yet they are very few people, dignified people who have contributed to building this Parliament,” said Tororo North County MP Geofrey Ekanya.