Kampala, Uganda: On Thursday, Uganda’s Finance Minister Matia Kasaija said that it was wrong for his Labour counterpart Betty Amongi to ask for Shs6 billion from the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), which they both supervise.
The Finance ministry oversees NSSF’s investments while the Labour ministry oversees its strategy and appoints its key officials.
Appearing before MPs investigating the Fund, the Finance minister distanced himself from the controversial money that his counterpart directed the NSSF board to make available to stakeholders, including her ministry and trade unions.
“I disagreed, in a meeting, with my colleague the Minister of Gender [over the matter],” he said.
The Finance Minister was asked whether he found Ms Amongi’s request irregular.
“Yes, it was, because a ministry that is supervising that body should not ask for money to run the affairs of the ministry even if those affairs are related to the Fund. They should request for the money from the Treasury because this money is not our money. This is workers’ money,” Mr Kasaija said.
The crux of problem
The Shs6b demand triggered the falling out between Ms Amongi and former NSSF Managing Director Richard Byarugaba and has been the focus of debate since the select committee of Parliament started probing the matter on Tuesday.
Ms Amongi faced the MPs before Mr Kasaija, and most of the questions directed at her were around the money, which she denied was irregular.
“The Shs6 billion has become a black mailing issue and for me I cannot be blackmailed,” she said. “Let us stop this blackmail. Some of us do our work as nationalists,” she added.
But Ms Fortunate Nantongo (Kyotera Woman) sought clarification over the minister’s repeated reference to blackmail.
“Is it us, the media or whoever? And under what circumstances are they blackmailing you?” she wondered.
Ms. Amongi finally put the matter to rest after saying it was a section of individuals running different social media platforms.
Despite explaining herself at length over the money request, MPs remained unsatisfied with the minister’s explanation.
“It is you people [Gender Ministry] who are confusing us with different statements and with figures being twisted. You can see the contradictions,” Workers’ MP Charles Bakkabulindi said.
Ms. Nantongo added that the committee needs more clarity on the matter because of the numerous contradictions.
Ms. Amongi said the money wasn’t for use in her ministry but for partnerships with different government entities.
“I deal with the [NSSF] board on budget. I wrote to the chairman on the issue of Shs6 billion and not to the managing director. So, my letter was asking the chairman about the activities and workplan we had discussed.”
The unclear response forced Mr Mpaka to rule that they would scrutinise documents, make recommendations and invite the Labour Minister again. The probe continues.