By Monica Kobusiinge
Kampala: Workers’ Member of Parliament Dr. Sam Lyomoki will spend nights within the parliament chambers protesting the delay to pass the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Bill.
The legislator has carried a mattress, mosquito net, and made himself ‘comfortable’ inside the chambers, vowing to make parliament his new home until the Bill is passed.
Lyomoki is concerned that the Bill has not been prioritized and it only appears at the end of the parliament program.
He claims that certain ‘Mafias’ are interested in incapacitating the process of passing the Bill.
“There are ‘ Mafias’ and ‘economic hit men’ who are working hard to sabotage the processing of the Bill to the detriment of Workers,” Lyomoki said.
This is the second night that the Worker’s MP is sleeping in Parliament Chambers since he started his campaign on 27 August 2020
In January last year, Lyomoki and a section of legislators started a process for the amendment of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Act of 1985 to allow workers’ access their savings before the age of 50.
Lyomoki argued that members should be allowed to withdraw their savings before they exceed the age of 45 to allow them to plan better.
He also wanted the Bill to be expanded to cater for privileges pertaining to medical and bereavement as and when required by an individual.
The Bill once amended would also ensure that people can receive the money within the period of saving so that they can invest in fundamental lifetime projects.
However, time and again, Lyomoki’s efforts have been frustrated by different forces.
For instance, last year after he (Lyomoki) was given leave to prepare for the tabling of the Bill, he was called back and stopped citing that the government had moved similar amendments.
Early this year, a report from the committees under which Bill’s jurisdiction falls continued to deliberately dillydally causing speaker Kadaga to adjourn sittings time and again.
The continued absence of the Minister of Finance for over a month whenever the Bill was on order paper also raised eyebrows for Lyomoki.
It should be noted that the Bill has been on the floor for one year now
Lyomoki staged a protest against Kadaga’s ruling to have the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Amendment Bill, 2019 and was expected to be considered in the next two weeks.
Presented before Parliament in August 2019, the Bill has generated controversy regarding the mid-term access of funds and whether it should be the Ministry of Finance or Gender to take charge of the funds.
Members of Parliament on the joint committee composed of Finance and Gender committees of parliament have in the past months been in discussions to finalize building consensus especially on the need for NSSF members who are below 45 years and have not saved for at least 10 years to be allowed to benefit from the midterm access window.
However, when the committee report was ready for presentation before parliament and consideration of the Bill, Lyomoki protested after a call by the Clerk to Parliament to have the Bill considered but the Minister of Public Service Muruli Mukasa appealed for rescheduling of the matter since the Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development Frank Tumwebaze was not present.
Lyomoki immediately raised a procedural matter questioning why the new State Minister for Disabilities and Elderly Sarah Kanyike does not handle the Bill since she was in the House. He noted that the issue of the NSSF Bill had taken long on the order paper and needed to be considered immediately.
But Speaker Kadaga said that it was not fair to have the new Minister handle the Bill given that it has been marred with several controversies.
Kasilo County MP Elijah Okupa pleaded with Lyomoki to have the consideration of the Bill delayed saying that the relevant ministers were not in the House to handle the piece of legislation.
Erute South MP Odur Jonathan suggested that the Gender Committee report is tabled since it is ready and then allow the Bill consideration later. But Kadaga insisted that the report can only be presented with the presence of the line Ministers who need to table a motion to have the Bill considered.
She ruled that the Bill should be considered at the next convenient sitting of Parliament after the upcoming ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party primaries.
Despite a ruling by Kadaga, Lyomoki insisted that the Bill should be considered immediately.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in the country followed by the lock-down, different worker’s leaders have petitioned the office of the Speaker raising concern on the delayed consideration of the Bill which they said would enable workers to get some benefits like unemployment benefits, relief funds and others for those facing financial hardships occasioned by the COVID-19 lock-down.