With the election process almost coming to an end, Ugandans have high expectations of their newly elected leaders and especially Members of Parliament whose mandate is to represent views of the people they represent in their respective constituencies.
The 10th Parliament of Uganda has an opportunity to creating necessary astute modalities that cover Uganda’s entire population and advancing equitable and gender responsive economic growth and development, through cleaning up the pension sector.
Else, for how long shall Ugandans await the recovery of stolen public sector resources?
The strategies that have reduced absolute poverty from nearly 60% a few decades ago to the current 19.7% in Uganda is commendable.
Yet we still have opportunities to bring the current figure further down, through new and/ or refined approaches to citizens’ empowerment, participation and equity/ equality oriented economic processes, for instance, through Pension modalities for all.
Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that; “Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.” Pension is critical towards this realization.
Despite scandals in Uganda, pension is critical to economic development. Uganda Debt Network (UDN) through her mission has endeared the advocacy since 2012, for recovery of stolen public resources from the pension office under Ministry of Public Service (MoPS).
UDN has further engaged the Government about the urgency to create necessary astute modalities that cover Uganda’s entire population and advancing equitable and gender responsive economic growth and development models.
Otherwise, the relative escalation of financial-related public sector scandals in general and pension in particular are a serious deterrent to the desired aspirations and development in Uganda.
Indeed, the 2015 Auditor General’s Report again shows that out of pension payments amounting to sh284b paid during Financial Year 2014/15, over sh14.6b was charged on account codes not aligned to the Government’s designated expenditure budget lines.
This was not only attributed to improper budgeting for the pension obligation but also relaxation of the budgeting controls under the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS), which would allow payments on items without sufficient funds.
Section 18 (1) of the Pensions Act, Cap 286, requires that every Pension or other allowance granted under the Act, should cease upon the death of the person to whom it is granted.
It was nevertheless, further noted in the said Audit report that over sh11b was paid to pensioners who had exceeded their pensionable period of 15 years, yet no life certificates were availed as proof of their continued existence. So are such payments to ghosts or those who have actually passed away?
Does the solution lie in broader liberalization of the pension sector, so that every Ugandan is covered and makes a choice beyond the current systems, often abused? Will those who have suffered the consequences from the MoPS pension and such other scandals see light of justice?
Parliament must cause the full implementation of Auditor General findings and recommendations every Financial Year and then regularly report to Ugandans.
Together for more prudent, accountable, transparent management of public resources and shared development.
This article was first published in the Uganda New Vision Newspaper.
The writer is a founding member of the Think-Tank.