MPs Question Government Over Pensioners’ Registration
The Ministry of Public Service has been questioned over its plan to conduct a census and validation of all pensioners in the country.
Last week, the ministry issued a public notice, indicating that there would be a pensioners’ census and biometric validation exercise between February 20, 2017 and March 30, 2017.
The matter was raised by Workers’ MPs, Margaret Rwabushaija on the floor on February 14, 2017, wondering why government is undertaking the exercise yet it got information of Ugandans above 18 years through the National Identity card project.
Rwabushaija noted that it would be a waste of resources for government to conduct another biometric validation exercise, yet it already has a central data bank where the information can easily be retrieved.
David Karubanga, State Minister of Public Service, told Parliament on February 15, 2017, that the ministry began a verification exercise in June 2015 to validate all pensioners in the country.
Karubanga said only 70, 085 pensioners worth 249 billion per annum were verified on the payroll by December 2016.
A total number of 2,181 records worth Shs 997 million per month by December 2016 remained unverified.
“Despite the decentralization of pension management, a number of votes have not fully verified the records on the payroll for lack of data or personal files and failure by pensioners or claimants to appear for verification. This has on many occasions affected timeliness of pension payment to bonafide retirees and planning or allocation of funds. In addition, the ministry of Public Service does not have a national register of pensioners,” Karubanga said in a statement to Parliament.
The minister said the objective of the exercise is to establish the total number of valid pensioners’ records, for each category and vote; capture the biometric details of all pensioners and beneficiaries with valid letters of Administration for proper identification on the pension payroll and identify and remove invalid pensioners’ records from the payroll.
He further said the verification exercise will link the pensioners’ records to the National Identification register, for faster, easier verification of pensioners in future and also establish a national register of all pensioners.
However, the minister faced a torrid time when legislators criticized government over having a disorganized plan. Jonathan Odur, Erute South MP, wondered why government announced the exercise and failed to turn up at some district headquarters.
Ayivu County MP, Bernard Atiku, questioned the rationale of the exercise, yet government conducted registration of citizens under the national ID project, from which the ministry could extract data on the pensioners.
Atiku further wondered why Face Technologies, which handles the issuance of driving licenses, was being contracted to conduct the biometric validation exercise yet all districts still have the biometric equipment that was used by the Electoral Commission during elections.
The minister however explained that this was not possible because there was a central database under the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA).
The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah wondered when the pensioners will be paid, to which minister Karubanga said it was unfortunate that the process of validation has delayed the process of payment.
His statement drew anger from Aruu County MP, Odonga Otto who accused the minister of complacency and failing to answer queries.
“Someone has worked with you for 33 years yet you want to validate them now? When are you going to pay them?” Odonga stated.
Joy Atim Ongom, Lira Woman MP demanded that the minister states a timeline when the exercise will be completed.
Karubanga assured the MPs that once the validation exercise is completed by end of March 2017, the ministry will issue a clean payroll to the Ministry of Finance, tasked with making the payments.
According to statistics from the ministry, as at December 2016, 30, 338 traditional pensioners; 16, 264 teachers and 23, 483 veterans had been verified.
A total of 1,466 traditional pensioners and 715 teachers are yet to be verified.