Workers Representative, Arinaitwe Rwakajara has sought leave of Parliament to introduce a Private amendment to the Parliamentary Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 2022 which seeks to promote good governance and efficiency of the operations of the scheme.
The Parliamentary Pensions Act, 2007 establishes a retirement benefits scheme for Members of Parliament and staff of the Parliamentary Commission and establishes a Parliamentary Pensions Fund for the payment of retirements benefits to its members.
Rwakajara through Article 94 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda and Rule 122 of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament was granted leave to introduce a private member’s Bill to amend the 15-year-old law.
According to him, the Act does not take into consideration the new developments in the retirement benefits industry and the implementation of some of the provisions of the Act which has posed challenges to the operations of the scheme as well as tampering with the effective operations of the scheme.
Rwakajara, while citing challenges to the Act, told the House that the process of obtaining a recommendation from the Uganda Medical Board is quite lengthy and cumbersome thereby delaying access to funds for medical treatment and retirement on medical grounds for members.
He added that on top of the Act not providing for a voluntary contribution for additional benefits like healthcare, pensioners are increasingly facing difficulties accessing affordable and adequate healthcare as the Act has no mechanism to address the challenge.
He also informed the House that the distribution of survivor’s benefits as recognized by the Laws on Succession in most cases conflicts with the member’s nomination, especially in cases where a nominee is neither a spouse nor a dependent.
He further stated that the position of clerk on the Board creates a fusion of the governing body with the management of the scheme which causes governance conflicts and has attracted audit queries and that the Act does not explicitly provide for the administration of the scheme before noting that even the rate of contribution by members needs to be reviewed.
Kilak North County MP, Anthony Akol while seconding the move said there had been a lot of oversight at the time when the Pensions Act was being processed and thanked Rwakajara for pointing out the challenges and loopholes that they need to work on now.
“At the time when we lost the Rt. Hon. Jacob Oulanyah, that is when we realized that there are many loopholes. You will even recall in the constitution where we were talking about the elections. So, at the same time, that is the time when we realized that the Pensions Act is not fair to members, Speakers, and even the Deputy Speaker. So, Madam Speaker, I rise to second the motion and I wish members will support this amendment because it touches on the life of yourself and your family. We serve this nation and at one point when you are leaving this nation many members of this House are suffering and relinquishing in poverty. You meet members and you don’t believe they were serving this House. And I know that this amendment will go a long way to improve on the pension Act and that is why I second the motion.”- Akol said.
Rubanda Woman MP, Prossy Akampulira reiterated that the bill indeed seeks to cure some of the challenges faced by members in the administration and operation of the scheme.
Akampulira said members faced challenges with the utilization of the scheme credit for example obtaining medical treatment abroad.
Currently, section 7(b) of the Act allows a member, on the recommendation of the medical bill to utilize the benefits in the scheme to pay for the medical treatment of a member or a pensioner.
“Honorable members, you are all aware of the challenges and tedious processes that we go through thereby delaying the provision of medical care to a member who intends to utilize his or her benefits in the scheme to obtain urgent medical care. The bill now proposes to make the process simple for the member to acquire all the medical treatment as recommended by the medical practitioner approved by the Bill. ”- Akampulira said.
With regard to the application of the law of succession on the distribution of the benefits of the member in the scheme, Akampulira told the House there is a provision when one becomes a member of the scheme, for them to choose the manner of sharing his or her scheme benefits and also appoint the members they wish to share the benefits in the scheme with.
She reminded members who hadn’t yet filled out the form to fill them because they could die anytime and being a member, they are assured of the benefits of the scheme.
“The law of succession has been used to defeat the member’s choice and instead the benefits of a member in the scheme are distributed in accordance with the law of succession. This not only unreasonably futters the description of the member to distribute his or her benefits in the scheme as he or she wishes but may be open for a challenge or infringing on the protection granted to a member to a person over his or her property under article 26 of the constitution”- she said.
“The Pensions Bill proposes to exempt the application of the laws of succession on the members’ benefits under the scheme so that the member’s wishes and aspirations as to how the benefits shall be shared in the event of his or her death is protected from any interferences.”- she added.
Minister of Public Service, Wilson Mukasa Muruli acknowledged that indeed there are a lot of contradictions in the Act which need to be ironed out.
He said the Ministry of Public Service had noted Rwakajara’s Bill and welcomed him for a sit down to harmonize the contradictions. Muruli said they would take the time to look at the other bills regarding the emoluments and entitlements of Speakers and former Speakers and their deputies and spouses everybody that has served in Parliament.