Workers’ Representative, Hon. Arinaitwe Rwakajara has been granted leave of Parliament to introduce a private member’s bill intended to streamline the administration and operations of the Parliamentary Pensions Scheme.
Rwakajara who is also the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Pensions Scheme board of trustees was granted leave during the plenary sitting on Tuesday, 19 April 2022 chaired by Speaker, Anita Among.
The proposed bill entitled, “the Parliamentary Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 2022” seeks to amend the Parliamentary Pensions Act, 2007, that establishes a retirement benefits scheme for MPs and staff of the Parliamentary Commission and establishes a Parliamentary Pensions Fund for the payment of retirement benefits to its members.
In his motion, Rwakajara said that the act in its current state does not take into consideration new developments in the retirement benefits industry and that implementation of some of the provisions of the act has posed challenges to the operations of the scheme as well as hampering the effective operations of the scheme.
He raised 10 critical areas that need to be addressed in the new bill that among others include speeding up the process of obtaining a recommendation from the Uganda Medical Board, which he says is “quite lengthy and cumbersome.”
It is a prerequisite for any member who wishes to access funds for medical treatment or seek to retire on medical grounds, to present a report of the Medical Board appointed by the Director General of Medical Services to the satisfaction of the Parliamentary Pensions Scheme board of trustees.
Rwakajara said pensioners are increasingly facing difficulties accessing affordable and adequate health care and that the current act has no mechanism to address the challenge.
The bill will also seek to increase the rate of contribution made by the members from 15 per cent to 20 per cent, permit benefits of untraceable members to be deposited on the reserve account of the scheme and provide for the appointment and functions of the chief operations manager and other staff of the Scheme.
“The position of the Clerk on the Board creates a fusion of the governing Board with management of the scheme which poses governance conflicts and has attracted audit queries,” Rwakajara said.
Hon. Anthony Akol (FDC, Kilak North), the seconder of the motion said there are loopholes in the Pensions Act that were not foreseen at the time of its enactment and that the act is not fair to the MPs, Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
“I wish members [MPs] to support these amendments because it touches on the lives of yourselves and your families. At one point when you leave this [House], you will find that many members are suffering and languishing in poverty. You meet members and you don’t believe they were serving this House. So this amendment will go a long way on improving the Pensions Act,” Akol said.
Hon. Prossy Mbabazi Akamuplira (NRM, Rubanda District) said MPs face a big challenge when it comes to utilizing the scheme’s credit to obtain medical treatment aboard and that new bill will make it easier and quicker to obtain all the medical requirements.
The Minister of Public Service, Hon. Wilson Muruli Mukasa welcomed the motion and pledged to work closely with the mover to iron out all the contradictions in the current law.
“I beg that we sit down with the member [Rwakajara] to harmonize all these contradictions; we shall even look at other bills regarding emoluments and entitlements of speakers, former speakers, their deputies and their spouses which are at the moment in contradiction so that we come up with a bill which is harmonized and up to date and takes into account the wishes and aspirations of all MPs, speakers and staff,” Muruli Mukasa said.