On the spot! NSSF saver sues fund as billions could have been lost by members
By WN Admin
Kampala – With a parliamentary special committee report recommending the resignation of the Board, top management and the line Minister still standing, more trouble is brewing at National Social Security Fund (NSSF) as a result of what a long term saver with the fund turned complainant calls ‘creative accounting’ within contributors’ accounts.
Things will definitely go from bad to worse if Waibale Simon Calvin’s (No. 7617700034515) complaints and findings against the fund are found true by the courts of law where he intends to file a case against the fund.
He says he has been left with this option having had his complaint treated in a rather lackluster manner by both the fund’s management and the pension sector’s regulator Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority (URBRA).
HOW DID IT START?
After the NSSF Amendment act, 2022 came into law and was accented to by the President in January 2022, many who qualified for midterm benefits which was one of the key changes included in the new law, applied for these benefits including Waibale in this case.
His application was filed in March 2022 and upon meeting all the requirements, Waibale successfully got his midterm benefits to the tune of over 100 million shillings in May 2022.
However, on further scrutiny of his contributions account with NSSF later, he discovered some discrepancies.
WHAT WAS WRONG?
As per the NSSF Act, section 35, interest of the year which is declared by the Finance Minister is supposed to be applied to the opening balance of a saver’s account at the beginning of the new financial year.
According to Waibale’s complaint, his opening balance for the financial year July 2021- June 2022 was Shs531,000,000 to which a declared interest of 9.65% was supposed to be applied and credited to his account soon after the Finance Minister’s announcement.
However, to his dismay and disappointment, that money was not credited to his account in time as required by law making him lose close to Shs10m in the process.
His midterm benefits to the tune of Shs107,781,221 were paid out in May 2022 before the interest was applied to the balance in the account leaving a balance of Shs431,124,882 onto which the 9.65% interest was applied culminating into an interest payment of Shs41,603,551 on 1st October, 2022.
That figure according to the complainant is Shs9,637,949 less than what he was due to receive in interest for the financial year 2021/22 had this interest been credited in time at the beginning of the financial year.
“And to confirm all is not right with the way entries are done into the accounts of savers, NSSF went ahead and made new entries into accounts from financial years that were already closed off which is not allowed as per acceptable accounting standards before paying out my mid-term benefits which in itself borders on illegality call it ‘creative accounting’, Waibale argues.
RAISING AN ALARM
After noticing these discrepancies, Waibale raised the issues with NSSF’s complaints desk in an email in September 2022.
He says the reply he got just confirmed that not only was NSSF carrying out ‘creative accounting’ by going back to closed off accounts as far back as the early 2000s to input entries and transactions in a bid to advantage the fund over the contributor, they had also committed a fundamental illegality in both accounting standards, principles and law.
Besides the entries into closed off accounts, this ‘creative accounting’ according to the complainant, not only gave NSSF the opportunity to apply the 9.65% interest declared for financial year 2020/21 on a much reduced balance, it was also credited to the customer’s account much later on October 1st 2022 which is a different financial year from July 2021- June 2022 when it was supposed to be credited.
This, he says, highlighted another form of negligence which borders on illegality given it took the fund over a year from the time of declaration to remit these funds.
FAILURE OF NSSF AND URBRA TO FIX THE DISCREPANCIES
On failing to have his queries rectified by NSSF given their email response showed they have no problem with the anomalies they had carried out in Waibale Simon Calvin’s contribution account, he contacted his lawyers of Pentagon Advocates who penned a complaint to the sector’s regulator URBRA in December 2022.
URBRA then referred the issue back to NSSF with a copy of the letter inquiring into the discrepancies raised being sent to Pentagon Advocates in February 2023.
NSSF in response replied to URBRA and copied the complainant as well indicating they had followed the right procedure and ignored the pertinent issues raised by Waibale.
“Left with no option, Waibale now to seek justice in the courts of law,” says Louis Kizito of Pentagon Advocates, the lawyer of the complainant.
The Counsel to the Complaint has since gone ahead and served NSSF with a notice of intention to sue as they are set to take the matters raised to court for determination.
WHAT ARE THE WIDER IMPLICATIONS?
While this case may be an isolated one, analysts we talked to opine that a forensic audit ought to be done in regard to the ‘creative accounting’ highlighted in his complaint on the accounts of all savers who qualified for midterm benefits.
With over 21,603 members receiving their midterm benefits by June 1st 2022 and over Shs421b paid out, a forensic audit may reveal many more if not all recipients of these benefits may be victims of the same discrepancies.
“The total amount lost by savers and recipients of midterm benefits may reach hundreds of billions after the interest rate for the financial year 2020/21 was applied to a balance less than the opening balance for the next financial year 2021/22 as stipulated by the law after deduction of the mid-term benefits.
“Finally for those who qualified for and received their full benefits in the financial year 2021/22, these could have missed out on billions of shillings in interest due from the financial year 2020/21 which was never remitted to their accounts in time given the accounts may have been closed off after receiving full benefits before October 2022 when the complainant finally received what was due to him in interest supposed to be received at the beginning of the previous financial year,” an analyst we talked to for this story stressed.
To comment on this story, call or text 0704192101, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.