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NSSF: Kiwanuka refuses to buckle under pressure

Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka admitted on Tuesday that she was coming under considerable pressure over appointment of NSSF managers, but vowed to stick to due process.

Kiwanuka told the parliamentary select committee investigating the National Social Security Fund that different interests were pushing for their preferred candidates.

“As you said, I have been under a lot of pressure from different groups to appoint A, B, C, X, Y or Z,” the minister said.

Kiwanuka’s admission followed media reports that President Museveni had directed her to reappoint former Managing Director Richard Byarugaba. But when she was asked directly about this, Kiwanuka was curiously reticent.

“I am sorry, I cannot divulge the discussions I had with the [president]; and I am sure you, too, would not divulge discussions with the appointing authority,” Kiwanuka said.

The minister said she had no personal, vested interest in who takes the NSSF top jobs. She said she had forwarded names of the top candidates to Bank of Uganda for due diligence.  Earlier interviews conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed the top three candidates as Edgar Agaba, Joseph Kitamirike and Richard Byarugaba.  Kiwanuka has taken her time to announce who is to take the job of MD, although she points out that she is acting within the law.

“If I wished a particular person to be in any particular position, I wouldn’t have opened up the process, I would just get my pen like all my predecessors and say ‘Honourable Ssempijja is now the MD’; but I said, ‘open up in the interest of NSSF’,” she told the committee chaired by Kalungu East MP Vincent Ssempijja.  “I would never and never just appoint someone to be the MD of NSSF without due diligence, because NSSF deserves the best and we will make sure that we put in all the safeguards [so] that NSSF becomes an efficient and profitable organisation for the repository of workers’ money.”

Until Kiwanuka’s explanation introducing Bank of Uganda into the narrative, her delay to name NSSF managers had led to various theories. One went that she was buying time to allow the current leadership to tie up aspects of various multimillion-dollar projects, including Pension tower ($100m), Lubowa estate ($900m), and Temangalo ($250m).

“Would you wish to tell the committee when you are going to appoint the substantive management of NSSF, because there are allegations that you are delaying these appointments to allow the acting people at NSSF to seal these procurements,” said Kyankwanzi Woman MP Ann Maria Nankabirwa (NRM).

Kiwanuka roundly denied this, indicating that such claims had prompted her to ask the auditor general to do a forensic audit of NSSF.

“Pension towers, Lubowa, Temangalo, these are all names we have been hearing over the past years and again this is an area where the auditor general is going to look,” the minister said.
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