KAMPALA- The move to liberalise the pensions sector that has dragged on for seven years has been hit by yet another snag. The Ministry of Public Service has asked the Inspector General of Government to investigate ministry of Finance officials over “allegations of bribery, vested interest and influence peddling.”
This follows a July 3, 2017 stakeholders’ consultative meeting held at Ministry of finance boardroom to discuss reforms in the pensions sector where Mr Moses Bekabye, a technical advisor for economic affairs at the Finance ministry and other officials were accused of having been “influenced” and “pushed” to liberalise the pensions sector to benefit some unnamed “external parties.”
The meeting that was attended by, among others, the Ministers of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Public Service, Finance, Planning and Economic Development and their respective Permanent Secretaries, consequently asked the Inspector General of Government (IGG) to investigate the allegations.
Mr Bekabye spearheaded the initial liberalisation process leading up to the formation of Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority (URBRA) and consequently served as its interim chief executive officer.
In a July 5, 2017 letter to the Inspector General of Government, Ms Catherine Bitarakwate Musingwiire, the public service Permanent Secretary asked the IGG to “undertake an urgent investigation into the allegations that staff of the Finance Ministry and other ofﬁcials were unduly inﬂuenced to push for the liberalisation of the pension sector in disregard of the directive by the President.”
The investigation, according to the letter may among other things, look into “how the idea to liberalise the pension sector in 2010 was hatched, whether there was any directive from Cabinet to the Minister of Finance to liberalise the pension sector and whether a certificate of ﬁnancial and legal implications were issued.”
The investigation may also focus on “…whether there are other interested parties (with special interests) behind the proposal to liberalise the pension sector and if yes, who the parties are and the particular interests.”
Workers’ Union protests conflict of interest
These allegations against finance ministry officials come on the heels of similar allegations made last week by representatives of workers’ unions against some key players in the liberalisation process.
In a statement released on Sunday July 23, by the National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU), Mr Usher Wilson Owere, the NOTU President General, accused some of the players of what he called “hidden private business interests that are now being masked behind genuine concern on reforms.”
“Workers need to treat these individuals with all the contempt they deserve, if workers are to get the best deal out of this reform process; otherwise we may end up handing workers’ savings to hungry, profit-seeking businessmen and lawyers disguised as saviours,” he said.
Conflict of interest
Mr Owere particularly singled out Mr Andrew Kasirye, the chairman of the URBRA- the industry regulator, who he said is a board member at UAP Insurance which owns UAP Financial Services, one of the licensed fund managers and UAP Life a licensed administrator. He also said Mr Kasirye’s law firm; Kasirye, Byaruhanga & Co. Advocates, is retained by Stanbic Bank yet the bank is a licensed pension’s funds custodian.
“Has he declared this conflict of interest?” the statement reads in part.
Mr Owere holds the view that the Retirement Benefits Sector Liberalisation Bill 2011, currently before Parliament, should be withdrawn and revised to reflect “workers interests.”
“NOTU strongly supports meaningful reforms in the pensions sector; reforms that will guarantee the security of workers’ savings, give a better return on investment, but also shield it away from profit driven reforms... the current bill does not serve workers’ interests and it should be withdrawn,” he said in the statement.