By Jackson Onyango
The Minister for gender, labour, and social development, Betty Amongi has told the select committee of Parliament investigating the National Social Security Fund () that the board of directors approved the Shs6 billion that has become a hot subject of contention.
Amongi told the committee that the suggestion for the money was within her powers as the line minister and in accordance with the law.
She argued that on many occasions, parliament has varied the national budget presented by the cabinet for several reasons highlighting scenarios where twice the budget of her ministry was increased first by Shs2 billion and the second time by Shs5 billion.
“If you parliament have been varying the national budgets and you think I as a minister I cannot give guidance on the NSSF budget, then you should also investigate parliament,” Amongi challenged.
Members of the select committee had alluded to the fact that it was irregular for the minister to originate the kind of budget request saying the proper process requires the management to initiate the budget which is in turn approved by the board and finally by the minister.
The initial amount proposed was Shs5 billion which was said at the sideline of the session with the committee that was planned for activities in the diaspora.
For the first time since the committee commenced the investigations, they had the opportunity to look at the list of the activities the Shs6 billion was planned for.
A breakdown of the items detailed in a letter authored by the former NSSF Managing Director, Richard Byarugaba that was tabled before the committee shows that; Shs1.8 billion was meant for strategic partnerships with the ministry of gender, labour unions, MPs representing workers among others.
Another Shs1.8 billion was meant for an efficient online system of receiving, processing, and handling complaints in relation to non-compliance by employers. Additionally, Shs1.2 billion was meant for the establishment of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), 678 million shillings was earmarked for sensitisation and engagement of workers to scale up the expansion of contribution and 219 million for strengthening of labour laws through monitoring of employers.
Yesterday, the chairperson of the NSSF board, Peter Kimbowa told the committee after several hours of engagement that the board never approved the work plan.
The members of the NSSF board of directors led by Kimbowa argued that in no way could they have approved the budget at a meeting attended by the minister.
“What I know is that the meeting we had in Serena that was attended by the minister was a strategic planning meeting and not a board meeting,” argued Kimbowa.
However, after being pressed hard by the select committee members on who had originated the request and whether it was approved by the board, Kimbowa rebuffed ever seeing the work plan and thus it never received the endorsement of the board.
Amongi disapproved of the assertion while appearing before the committee. She told the committee that the feud and ramblings could have been ignited by her refusal to approve the Shs400 billion request for the purchase of land and $1 million (approximately Shs370 billion) for the construction of a specialised labour court for the Judiciary as part of social corporate responsibility.
“I did this kumbe I was stepping on peoples’ toes,” exclaimed Amongi.