Hon. Betty Amongi Ongom, the Minister of Gender Labour and Social Development (MoGLSD) has lashes at a group of people who have for the past weeks said that she requested Shs6Bn from Richard Byarugaba, the former managing director of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).
Upon her denial of renewing Byarugaba’s contract which expired reports came in accusing Amongi of refusing to renew the contract because of that issue.
Among her top critic was Usher Wilson Owere, the Chairperson of the National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU).
Speaking to reporters, few days after Museveni directing of in-depth investigations into Byarugaba ad the fund, Amongi to reporters, Amongi sad that the said Shs6Bn is for NSSF activities.
“The 6bn budget I approved is appropriated under NSSF operation Budget for 2022/2023 The activities I have mentioned above are NSSF activities, and not of the Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social Development,” she said.
Unlike the MoGLSD budget which is approved by the Parliament, the NSSF budget, Amongi sad is approved her because she is mandated by law as the supervising Minister to do so.
“These activities will be undertaken by the NSSF; in partnership with relevant entities, be it Government Agencies or private sector players,”
In the National Social Security Fund (Amendment) Act 2022, which was ascented to by the president on January 2, 2022 and became law upon its publication in the Gazette on January 7, Amongi said NSSF was given new mandates which should be implemented.
Among these she said is expanding Social Security Coverage; where Section 4 and 13 A introduced mandatory contributions by all workers regardless of the size of the enterprise or the number of employees.
“In addition, the Act introduced voluntary contributions to the fund where a member can contribute over and above his/her standard contributions, and a self-employed person can also apply and open a member’s saving account to make voluntary contributions to the fund,” she said
The Law further calls for compliance with the Act With the coming into force of new amendments, it is imperative to drive compliance.
NSSF, according to this Law is under obligation to implement these, and other provisions of the NSSF Act as amended without exception.
“You would like to note that the new law came into effect at the same time when the mandate to supervise the fund had been returned to the Minister in charge of Social Security,” the Minister further saaid
In order to attain the strategic objectives of the new law, Amongi said that as the supervising Minister, she directed the Board to propose key initiatives that would be implemented to expand coverage of social protection and enforce compliance.
“Our target is to increase coverage from the current 1.3 million members with balances in NSSF to 15 million by 2025. Through all this, some of the key questions that I wanted the Fund to consider, included: How can the Fund leverage Ministries, Departments and other Government agencies to ensure compliance with the NSSF Act as amended? How can the Fund leverage the Labour Inspectors under the Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social Development to expand its membership recruitment and ensure employer compliance, especially at Local Government level? How can the Fund leverage the reach and services of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that Ugandans in the diaspora are part of the social security network? How can the Fund leverage existing groups or associations in the informal sector, such as the markets, farmers, transport sector, and other communities to begin savings with the fund? It’s also important to note that; currently,” she said
Currently, the compliance rate by employers in the formal sector stands at only 51%, an indication that 49% of employers aren’t remitting contributions of employees.
December 31, 2021, 420 cases were reported by whistleblowers indicating employers who are non-compliance which required strategy to address, according to Amongi
“That by January 17, 2022, 213 cases at Magistrate courts (65% central). 15% (North) 20% East and Western regions, with 200bn unremitted contributions by defaulting employers, existed in courts of law across the country. That over 20 cases by Employees are in court against NSSF, seeking recovery from NSSF their money not remitted by their employers. That only 48% of employers in the fund have 5 or more employees that fall under the old laws. Therefore, the new law is to target 52% of employers far higher than what was covered under the previous law,” she said
To realise the proper implementation of the new regulations, Amongi told reporters that she directed the Board to examine the following as conduits to achieving the two strategic objectives;
Anong these was establishment of an online system for whistleblowers to report non- compliance by employers and drive mass registration of both eligible employers and employees considering that the new law is targeting 75% of the employment categories that were originally not captured under the old law ad drive mandatory registration by undertaking compulsory registration in all industrial parks; plantations including sugar, coffee, tea, and fruits; road construction sites, and other mass employment sectors across the country,”
Statistics from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics report of 2021, indicate that the total labour force in Uganda now stands at 15-19 million workers and this constituency needs to be tap into the new benefits under NSSF.
“We also had to strengthen collaboration with other stakeholders to support us in driving and scaling up communication between employers and employees. E.g. ✓URA (partnership with their PAYE) Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) (partnership in industrial parks, licensing data) Government MDAs to enforce non-registration of business without a compliance certificate from NSSF. Federation of Ugandans Employers, Labour Unions, Private Sector Foundation, Uganda Chamber of Commerce, and Uganda Manufactures Association for purposes of coordinating, sensitizing, creating awareness, and consensus building on implementation, compliance, and enforcement,” she said.
These strategic initiatives, she said had corresponding activities for which an allocation of Shs6Bn was approved in the budget in June, 2022 and the work plan was reviewed in November, 2022.
“Therefore, as I conclude, I would like to demystify the ongoing misinformation as follows. The Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social Development will only provide oversight, and support the Fund in the implementation of these activities, in line with its legal mandate as the Ministry responsible for social security,” she said.