Monday, July 28, 2014

UGANDA PARLIAMENT SETS ITS PRYING EYE ON NSSF ... NEVER A GOOD IDEA



This week a five-member team of MPs was appointed to probe the alleged mismanagement of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). You will be forgiven for rolling your eyes at this point.

In the terms of reference the committee will investigate the investment in power distributor UMEME’s IPO and allegations that recruitment into the Fund is unfair and wracked in nepotism.

One cannot help but cringe whenever one hears parliament is setting up a probe on this issue or the other. They are often time consuming, show up the MPs ignorance of the most basic of concepts under scrutiny and are more about playing to the gallery than anything else. In short a scandalous waste of tax payers’ money.

There are about 500,000 workers who subscribe to the Fund or under two percent of the population of Uganda.  On the other hand we continue to pour hundreds of billions of shillings into education, health and any number of endeavours that affect all the 35 million Ugandans and you don’t see MPs falling over themselves to probe these sectors.

Meanwhile our MPs do not subscribe to NSSF, so is this a case of them wailing more than the bereaved?

Parliament can probe whatever they want and I am sure they are within their rights to do so, but when their probes aggravate inefficiencies instead of alleviating them, discourage initiative instead of encouraging it and at the end of the day produce unworkable solutions then we the tax payers and voters they represent have a right to ask whether they are working in our best interests at all.

Movie specifically to the NSSF probe. So they are going to probe whether they irregularly acquired UMEME shares.

Top management have in recent weeks explained the process by which the shares were acquired and provided the legal justification. The IGG has looked into the same deal and given it a clean bill of health. So the MPs none of whom has any experience in investment – your corner shop and the financial black hole that is your goat farm do not count, are going to find something amiss?

The NSSF management has also thrown in the fact that in the short period that they have held the UMEME shares they have enjoyed double digit returns that would have money managers around the world drooling onto their three piece suits. However even if the investment had not paid off by now – all investments don’t pay off this quickly, the Fund should be able to stand by the credibility of their investment process regardless.

Uganda is not a poor country, going by the ingenuity of its people and the untapped natural resources that lie under our feet. It is clearly not obvious to our MPs but they should be playing a role to create the environment for the exploitation of these endowments and not throwing road blocks at every turn for people attempting to do so.

Whenever it is convenient to us we lambast foreigners for coming to Uganda and “stealing” our things, meanwhile we go and hobble NSSF, the largest financial institution in this country, based on local savings and with a mandate to invest this monies on our behalf in our economy.

If MPs really wanted to be of use they should be investigating why NSSF is not fulfilling its full potential, which has got more to do with the legal framework it operates under more than anything else.

I would love to be wrong but this is what is going to happen in coming weeks: The MPs will summon all and sundry to appear before them, fire questions rapidly and from every conceivable angle, threaten officials with arrest, make the headlines with some wild allegations, stretch out the tenure of the committee for as long as possible (per diems all around) and eventually release a report that will not reflect the time and resources expended on it.

As a worker who saves with NSSF, with the future hope of benefiting from a credible pension, it is in my best interest that NSSF not only survives but thrives. But I am sorry, I don’t think my MPs are helping serve this interest with this probe.

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