Lawmakers have adopted a recommendation by the House’s select committee, directing the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hon. Betty Amongi to resign with immediate effect on account of abuse of office.
The select committee, chaired by Mbarara South Division Member of Parliament , Hon. Mwine Mpaka investigated the alleged mismanagement of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and found that the minister’s actions in directing Shs6 billion to be availed to her ministry were irregular.
The report, presented during plenary sitting on Wednesday, 01 March 2023 added that President Museveni should take keen interest in the conduct of the minister.
The report was adopted on Thursday, 09 March 2023 during plenary sitting chaired by Speaker, Anita Among.
The MPs said that the minister’s actions contravened the NSSF Act.
Hon. Aisha Kabanda (NUP, Butambala District) wondered how the minister was going to account for the Shs6 billion and yet according to the NSSF Act, she supervises the fund.
“Were you going to account for the Shs6 billion with your juniors,” asked Kabanda.
Hon. Theodore Ssekikubo (NRM, Lwemiyaga County) said that Parliament’s task is to prove beyond reasonable doubt if the minister was right or wrong to request for the money.
“Parliament must raise to the occasion. The minister said she performed her statutory duties in approving the budget but in her letter, she said that she received a budget proposal of Shs15 billion and she said that that out of Shs15 billion, can I have Shs6 billion for expanding the fund,” said Ssekikubo.
Dokolo District Woman Representative, Hon. Cecilia Ogwal urged her counterparts to make a decision based on the Public Finance Management Act which clearly stipulates budget initiation and implementation.
“There is a difference between originating and implementation. We should be clear on who initiates the budget so that nobody is seen as being victimised,” Cecilia Ogwal said.
The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Mathias Mpuuga said that the minister does not have the power to appropriate funds.
“She is conveniently expanding the interpretation of the NSSF Act. Why did you think you can borrow the word appropriation to use the money for government work? NSSF funds are for private people who are saving their little money for a rainy day,” said Mpuuga.
He added that, ’we must clean this house [NSSF], we must give assurance and hope to the citizens.
This entity has become over the years some people’s daily income’.
The Minister of State for Finance, Planning and Economic Development (General Duties), Hon. Henry Musasizi said that the request of the Shs6 billion was not approved by the Ministry of Finance.
“It came to our attention and we notified the minister [Amongi]. We held a meeting with her, gave her our opinion and we were against her request but she went ahead with her request,” Musasizi said.
Amongi however, said that she cannot resign based on a falsehood by the report and she maintained that the request of Shs6 billlion was within the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Act.
“I have been condemned without evidence, facts and reference to points of the law. Infact I am being victimised yet I am the whistle-blower,” she said.
Amongi explained that her letter directing the appropriation of Shs6 billion was in exercise of ministerial power under Section 29 of the NSSF Act which gives her power to amend the budget.
“Activities of the Shs6 billion do not fall under Ministry of Gender and I want to state that the new law introduced mid-term access and the law permits me to issue regulations for voluntary savings. I am required to carry out stakeholder engagements and I cannot do that alone,” she added.
Mwine Mpaka said that every recommendation in the report is backed by evidence.
“We believe we did this job to the best of our knowledge and we can defend all the recommendations,” said Mwine Mpaka.
MPs further agreed that the NSSF Board should be dissolved as recommended by the committee.
The House further adopted a recommendation that 24 board members who illegally received the 10 per cent contribution from NSSF should refund the money within seven working days after adoption of the report or face prosecution.
On 19 January 2023, the House resolved to institute a committee to inquire into the operations of NSSF, following reports of corruption and mismanagement of the Shs17.9 trillion fund.