The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) board is expected to meet today to discuss renewal of the contract of the Fund’s managing director Richard Byarugaba, who has clocked the mandatory retirement age of 60.
A highly-placed source, however, intimated that the incumbent was poised to secure a new five-year mandate to stay in-charge of the Shs17 trillion workers’ provident fund that he has superintended for a dozen years.
Following our revelation yesterday that Gender and Labour minister Betty Amongi in a July 22 letter asked Mr Byarugaba to leave office, pending a determination of his suitability for reappointment, multiple sources said negotiators had over the past weeks broken new ground in closed-door meetings.
A source, who attended but spoke on condition of anonymity due to the confidential nature of the discussions, said one of deliberations took place at State House Entebbe under President Museveni’s chairmanship.
In the meeting, Gender and Labour ministry reportedly proposed that it could only offer Mr Byarugaba a fixed three-year contract extension, or he leaves if he declines, but the chief executive preferred a full five-year mandate in his view to progress the growth of the Fund.
The State House meeting was attended by, among others, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, Ms Amongi and her Finance counterpart Matia Kasaija. The last two co-supervise the Fund.
Ms Amongi, under whose docket the appointment of the managing director and deputy falls in the revised NSSF law, was unavailable when we tried multiple times to reach her by telephone.
In a July 22 letter made available exclusively to this newspaper only on Tuesday, the minister asked Mr Byarugaba to hand office over to his reappointed deputy Patrick Ayota in the same month, reasoning that he was past the working age under Public Service Standing Order and the Fund’s Human Resource Policy and his continued conduct of official duties risked legal exposure to the Fund.
“This is dangerous for the operations of the Fund,” Ms Amongi wrote, “and I cannot continue to put the Fund at risk without addressing the matter”.
It has now emerged that hardly before the minister’s ink dried up, the Deputy Solicitor General, Mr Pius Perry Biribonwoha, who said he was writing on instructions of the Attorney General, told minister Amongi in a rejoinder on the same day that the Public Service Standing Order does not apply to the NSSF chief executive.
In addition, the letter said, Mr Byarugaba should run his five-year term that began on December 1, 2017 until the end, despite clocking retirement age, because provisions in the Fund’s Human Resource Policy, where conflicting, are subordinate to the terms set out in the instrument of appointment.
“In light of the above, this is, therefore, to advise that the five-year term of the current managing director is valid and will continue in force until its lapse on December 1, 2022,” Mr Biribonwoha noted.
The varied interpretations, and conflicting positions of the political heavy-weights, coupled with an attempted ouster on November 15 of Mr Usher Owere, the chairman general of National Organisation of Trade Unions accused in an October petition to President Museveni of bidding for Mr Byarugaba’s reappointment, reportedly triggered a flurry of meetings to stem the divide.
Sources said the President directed Ms Nabbanja to intervene and ensure differing parties find common ground.
Commenting on the matter last evening, Ms Nabbanja said: “My role stops at supervising the ministers who then guide the [NSSF) board. So, the minister [of Gender and Labour] is the best person to give you comment on what the current position is.”
“It is true the President convened the meeting to find a way forward, after which the minister (Ms Amongi) was supposed to go back and discuss with the (NSSF) board. So, please talk to either the minister or board,” she said.
Ms Amongi did not receive or return our telephone calls, or reply to our WhatsApp messages she blue-ticked.
The NSSF board chairperson, Mr Peter Kimbowa, said he never attended the State House meeting and was unaware of the reported proposal to either extend or grant Mr Byarugaba, who was unavailable yesterday to discuss the reported developments.
The Fund’s managing director, according to the amended NSSF Act, is appointed by the line minister, in this case Ms Amongi, on the Board’s recommendation and on terms and conditions as the minister may deem fit. The managing director is charged with the general management, administration and organisation of NSSF.