Former NSSF Managing Director, Richard Byarugaba has said he is being witch-hunted by Gender Minister, Betty Amongi for questioning the shs6 billion budget to fund “her projects.”
“When the request came in, I opened my eyes and asked if it was real because in my career as a public servant and private person I have never got a request to fund my principal. … I call myself a victim) of witch-hunt) . I know the honourable minister and the Fund have tried to portray me as a villain and to be frank I am a victim and I feel bad,” Byarugaba told the parliamentary committee investigating the mismanagement of NSSF on Friday.
“I would never have expected it to come from the Ministry of Gender, that is why I was awed. On a rather sad note, being my supervisor this(Shs6 billion) is a clear case of conflict. How would we as a fund and I as the accounting officer demand accountability from my supervisor? How would I discipline my supervisor(minister) and the ministry in case they abused these funds?”
Byarugaba said that it was unfair that so many allegations about corruption at the Fund had been brought up against him.
“I really feel awful because a lot of the allegations, especially the ones that touch on me like corruption…there is no evidence to prove.”
Earlier, this week, the NSSF board chairperson, Peter Kimbowa said the request for shs6 billion by the minister was irregular.
Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija on Thursday told the committee that the shs6 billion request was irregular and that the ministry can only request for funds to run its affairs from the treasury.
However, the Gender Minister, Betty Amongi recently said the money was not going to her office but rather for the Fund to popularize the recently amended NSSF Act.
“ Therefore, I would like to demystify the ongoing misinformation that the shs6 billion budget I approved is appropriated under NSSF operation budget for 2022/2023 and activities mentioned are for NSSF and not my ministry,” Amongi said last month.
“These activities will be undertaken by the NSSF in partnership with relevant entities, be it government agencies or private sector players. The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development will only provide oversight, and support the fund in the implementation of these activities, in line with its legal mandate as the Ministry responsible for social security.”
Appearing before the same committee, Minister Amongi dismissed claims from Byarugaba, urging that the former NSSF Managing Director and his management staff failed to do due diligence on a number of issues including the Nakigalala land, which prompted her to defer budgets, hence she did not interfere with their work.
Speaking to the committee on Friday, Byarugaba said it was unheard of for the NSSF board to approve his re-appointment but the minister reject the same.
“The minister has acted illegally with a lot of bias in rejecting my appointment as required by law and opted to appoint the Deputy Managing Director unconditionally.”
He said it defeats logic that the minister ordered him to retire from the Fund having clocked the mandatory retirement age of 60 , but then reappointed his deputy Patrick Ayota despite being older than Byarugaba.
“To my utter shock and horror , I get a letter from the minister forcing me to retire on grounds that I have reached retirement age. The directive was that I should hand over office to my deputy who, in fact, was older than me ( at 62) and whose contract had just been extended a few days ago without consultation from the board,” Byarugaba said.
Byarugaba opined that the current impasse at the Fund was caused by having two ministries supervising NSSF, unlike it was in the past.
“It would be better that you have one top dog in the house, whether Ministry of Finance or Ministry of Gender. For me, dual reporting has already shown its ugly head,” Byarugaba said.
He said that ever since the NSSF was placed under the supervision of the Ministry of Gender, the Fund has been rocked with allegations of corruption, influence peddling, delayed decision making , media fights and scandals.
In 2021, parliament reached a consensus that the operations and activities of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) be supervised by both the Ministry of Gender and Ministry of Finance.
The same was included in the amended NSSF Act.