NSSF FILES: Minister Amongi: Saleh Wants NSSF to Inject Shs 40bn in Grain Council 

The Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development Betty Amongi is pushing the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) to inject a staggering Shs 40bn of savers’ money into the operations of the Grain Council of Uganda.

She then asked the board, “Is there now firm commitment from the MD? I need his answer.”

Amongi says the idea came from the Chief Coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), Gen Salim Saleh and must therefore be endorsed and executed by NSSF which she supervises.  

In a confidential correspondence to the NSSF board of Directors dated December 17, Amongi said Saleh’s plan to take Shs 40bn to the grain council was opposed by the NSSF Managing Director, Richard Byarugaba. 

Amongi has since refused to renew Byarugaba’s contract, citing many reasons including his refusal to buy into several business proposals from government officials. 

“As you are aware,” Amongi wrote to the NSSF board, “Chief Coordinator OWC (Gen Saleh) proposed strategic investment through the grain council. Our maize has a ready market in Kenya.”

The Minister further wrote: “This proposal is that the government, together with the Fund, form a national marketing vehicle that will organize the pathway to the huge potential markets that exist in the region and the whole of Africa. The company will identify specific markets for Uganda’s produce, and then support farmers produce and supply the products needed by those markets.”

Government already has several bodies mandated to promote Uganda’s exports in the region and overseas including the Ministry of Trade, Export Promotions Board and Commercial Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs among others. 

However, Amongi told the NSSF board that,“The overall cost to the Fund, approximates Shs 40bn for capitalisation of the program.”

The Minister further said the operational funds would “initially come from revolving lines of funding and later from retained earnings.” 

She did not provide details on how this arrangement would work out – given the challenges of government-supported revolving funds such as the Youth livelihood programme. 

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In her missive, Amongi wondered why Byarugaba was “dragging” his feet on the “strategic investment proposed by a senior government official (Saleh).” 

She then asked the board, “Is there now firm commitment from the MD? I need his answer.”

Efforts to reach Byarugaba for comment did not bear fruit as he was reported on holiday.

What went wrong?

But highly placed government officials told ChimpReports this Monday morning that Byarugaba did not oppose the idea from Saleh.

“We have no idea where the Minister got that information from,” said a government source. “NSSF plans to implement that plan. It’s part of private equity for the Fund. However, there is fear about the viability of this project which requires billions of savers’ money.”

The Grain Council of Uganda (TGCU) is a non-profit, membership organization registered in 2012 and brings together key stakeholders along the grains value chain. 

TGCU says on its website that it strives to have the Uganda grains sub-sector becoming more efficient with effective players who will make Uganda grain more competitive and address the challenges that afflict the Uganda grains sector.

These challenges include Limited availability of quality inputs; poor and inconsistent volumes of quality grain; poor and inadequate grain storage and processing facilities; poor post-Harvest management; informal and unregulated grain trade and non enforcement of grain quality standards.

It is understood officials in government have called for restraint and caution as poor decision making in managing savers’ money could trigger a national scandal and uproar from savers.  

Gen Saleh speaking at a function in the past

These officials suggested that the Shs 40bn plan “should first make business sense lest savers lose their hard-earned savings.” 

The Grain Council is led by Robert Mwanje, who also runs Tonga Investments, a private company. 

ChimpReports understands the Shs 40bn project will soon be tabled before Parliament for consideration. 

Amongi argued that the NSSF, which currently has a balance sheet size of Shs 17tn (4.5bn) can, deliberately, support initiatives needed to achieve National Development Programme III without jeopardizing the safety of member funds. 

“For example, 2% of Shs 18tn is equivalent to Shs 360bn. To ensure safety of member funds, 98% of the assets can continue to be invested in the traditional government bonds. Equities and real estate. The 2% can be deployed systemically and over time, on the initiatives needed to support NDP III,” she argued.

However, experts say the Shs 40bn plan, which is fully backed by politicians, must be fully scrutinized before savers’ funds are injected into it.

The post NSSF FILES: Minister Amongi: Saleh Wants NSSF to Inject Shs 40bn in Grain Council  first appeared on ChimpReports.

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