Monthly Archives: December 2016

Stop the Selfishness, become Socially Responsible!!

Its that time of the year when most of us look forward to the Christmas/New Year holiday. Plans are diverse and usually dictated by which age-group you belong to. While in my mid 20s, I always looked forward to engaging in some serious liquor and entertainment related activities as a way of bidding farewell to the year and welcoming the new one. Today, the story is different.

The average individual is most likely engrossed in planning for a cross-section of activities largely pertaining towards the family’s enjoyment. While it’s important to ensure that family is well catered for during such times, I have grown up enough to realise that the tendency to only think about self is one of the worst habits humanity has gotten into.

Social Responsibility is an ethical framework that suggests that an organisation or individual has an obligation to act for the benefit of society at large. As individuals, we have a duty to perform social responsibility in order to maintain a balance within the societies we exist.

In Uganda for example, the typical middle class family is going to spend this holiday in at least one of the following ways; attend parties hosted at high class venues like the five star hotels everyone who is somebody wants to be seen hobnobbing at, organise parties at home or attend a string of parties at friends’ homes, take a trip with family to a holiday destination (local or international) or undertake a trip to the village with the family.

All these activities aren’t bad at all. However, when they focus on self then there is a big problem. While you’re out there spending UGX 350,000/= (USD 100) each night enjoying yourself;

upe_pupils

Pupils of a UPE School in Adjumani District, Uganda

  • Someone lacks UGX 100,000/= (USD 30) to pay school fees for their child who is getting into a candidate class.

  • A Universal Primary Education (UPE) School in your village needs just UGX 500,000/= (USD 150) to buy a full set of syllabus books to be used by the teachers.

  • Some students who have struggled through school are stuck at making carer choices and need a simple pep talk to show them the opportunities that lie yonder.

  • An elderly widow is struggling to shelter herself from weather elements in her structure worse than a chicken house.

  • A water well in your neighborhood needs basic protective works to ensure that nearby residents have better drinking water.

  • A health centre lacks basic cleaning tools like a scrubber, jerrycans, liquid soap all costing less than UGX 150,000 (USD 40)

The issues are immense, all it takes is looking around you and endeavoring to pick just one to act upon. You see, we do not live in a vacuum. Individual prosperity is not sustainable in a sea of poverty. If you have been blessed to have something, just know there are many that do not have at all. By exercising social responsibility during this festive season, you will have begun your journey towards being a socially responsible citizen.

You might say, well, am a tax paying citizen. The government should play its role. Just take it from me, we have cried for years without end to get the government to sort out some of the now chronic problems we are faced with but nothing seems to get done. As a responsible citizen, are you going to just look on? Imagine this, the fees of a pupil in a high end national curriculum school in Kampala is at least UGX 1.2 Million. Once I was in West Nile and came across a UPE school with 2000 pupils that received UGX 3 million per quarter. In other words, what you pay for two of your children a term in school is what the government assigns for 2000 pupils. It’s mind boggling and shocking at the same time to the extent that shouting yourself hoarse for change in this regard will be more strenuous than you mobilising friends to address some of that school’s challenges.

Stop being inward looking. Make your family happy but you too need to realise that putting a smile on others outside your nuclear family is a pre-requisite for a proper balance of social harmony.

As you do your thing this festive season, take time off to address a public need. I already have one lined up for me in Butaleja on the 28th of December 2016. A group of concerned Talejaz is launching Tree Planting and Education initiatives under our umbrella association of Naanghirisa Development Association.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

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Uganda’s Pension Crisis!!! [Guest Blogger]

The tales of pensioners in Uganda are harrowing. Many of the retired and elderly have over time given up on pursuing their claims as a result of a system that has morphed into one big labyrinth of unscrupulous officials. Without doubt, the current approach towards managing pensions in this country has erased even the little left patriotism that our elderly had for our nation. They laboured for years without end, often under the meanest of circumstances with the hope that they would have a comfortable retirement while reveling in a prosperous country that they helped grow. It is no wonder that many who have not yet retired and have the means are engaging in grossly obscene corrupt activities fully knowing that they are trying to guarantee a comfortable retirement for themselves as well as a smooth start for their children and grandchildren.

A considerable number of public sector pensioners/retired civil servants have been subjected to untold suffering at the hands of the highly-incompetent and inherently corrupt Ministry of Public Service. The Ministry is unable to pay out pension benefits to bona fide beneficiaries in a timely manner and in the correct due amounts.

The print media has been awash with stories of pensioners who have made the dreaded journey to the Ministry of Public Service for many a year with no success. Some pensioners have died before they could receive their pension entitlements because of entrenched corruption, gross ineptitude and calamitous pension administration.

At the same time, several officials from the Ministry of Public Service including Permanent Secretary Jimmy Lwamafa, Principal Accountant Chris Obey and Director Steven Kiwanuka Kunsa were recently found guilty of fraud, corruption, false accounting and diversion of public funds. The officials that should be the stewards of public funds are eating from the trough and robbing the citizenry in broad daylight.

The Government has also accumulated arrears that relate to pension liabilities and there is no sense of urgency in clearing the arrears under the so-called Hakuna Mchezo dispensation. The structure of the public service pension scheme is also a source of problems because it is an unfunded scheme that operates on a “Pay-as-You-Go” basis. This implies that the funding for pensions is withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund as pension entitlements are due for payment. The Pay-As-You-Go system exposes pensions to the vagaries of the Government’s cash flow constraints.

The World Bank in its Economic Update of June 2014 entitled “Reducing Old Age and Economic Vulnerabilities” dealt with the Uganda pension system and provided some proposals regarding public sector pension reform. The World Bank drew attention to the fact that reforms were critical in order to ensure the transparent and proper governance of pension funds, building the institutional capacity specifically within the Ministry of Public Service and the financial implications of moving to a funded public service pension scheme. The report serves as a possible spring-board for the development and implementation of a pension system that addresses all the flaws identified above.

Against this background, it is essential that the Government of Uganda urgently sets up a fully-funded defined pension plan or defined contribution scheme for public servants to which employee contributions and employer contributions will be remitted. The management of the fund could be outsourced to a licensed asset management firm which would report to the Trustees appointed by the beneficiaries of the pension scheme. It is essential that the Pension Plan/Defined Contribution Scheme must be fully autonomous and properly regulated by the Retirement Benefits Authority.

No Government official should have any decision-making role and independent audits and actuarial valuations should be conducted annually as part of the accountability mechanisms.

These measures could potentially resolve the current mountain of challenges facing public service pensioners. The Pension Fund will also have an asset base that can provide long term capital for investment across the economy through listed companies, unlisted entities, real estate and government and corporate debt.

By John Rukundo, Financial Analyst/Guest Blogger