Lawmakers on the Gender, Labour and Social Development Committee yesterday started scrutinising the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Bill, 2019 (amended), behind closed doors.
The Bill was debated and passed by the 10th Parliament, but President Museveni returned it to the 11th Parliament last month for amendment of Section 24, which provided for midterm access for different categories of savers.
The Bill was officially re-tabled to Parliament on September 29, by the State minister for the Elderly, Mr Dominic Mafabi.
The Speaker of Parliament, Mr Jacob Oulanyah, then ordered that the House’s Gender committee analyses it and reports back to the House in 10 days. The 10-day deadline has since elapsed.
But in her interface with the media shortly after the closed door meeting with Gender ministry officials yesterday, the chairperson of the Parliament’s Gender committee, Ms Flavia Kabahenda, blamed the delay on their heavy workload.
“We received this Bill on September 29 and the Speaker gave us 10 days to have it concluded but of course like any other committee, we already had work,” she said.
She said they also needed guidance from the Speaker on how to proceed with the Bill considering majority committee members were new.
“We told him (the speaker) that the amount of time he had given us was so inadequate for us to do justice to the Bill, so we requested that he allows us more time and he allowed,” Ms Kabahenda said.
In the rejected Bill, Clause 24(A) had granted access to savers who have clocked 45 or saved for at least 10 years, 20 percent of their accrued benefits.
In the President’s suggested amendment, however, only those who both clocked 45 and saved for 10 years will access 20 percent of the accrued benefits, while sub clause 24(A) 3 granting persons with disabilities access to 75 percent of the accrued benefits after a year with no job will be deleted.
Even when the committee members declined to provide a specific timeline, they promised to expedite the Bill.
Defending why the Bill should be expedited, the minister of Gender, Ms Betty Amongi, said the beneficiaries were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, some of whom lost their jobs. “I hope that we can engage more openly and be able to fast track the Bill as the chairperson stated. Many of us are in distress because of this pandemic,” she said.
Last month, Mr Oulanyah ruled that none of the Parliament’s committee members would have fresh sessions or interface with any ministry, department or agency outside the precincts of Parliament.
The speaker reasoned that the directive was meant to close out the gaps for bribery and extortion.
The speaker’s directive has, however, been defied since the committee members yesterday held their interaction with the ministry of Gender officials at Hotel Africana.
In defence, Ms Kabahenda said some of the questions were ‘sensitive’ and not for public consumption.
“You know we are still in the kitchen and many times women don’t want you to be in the kitchen when you are cooking, they want you to be at the dining table so that they can serve you,” she explained.