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    Court to Decide On Byarugaba NSSF Contract Fate

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    The High Court in Kampala has fixed March 7th, 2024, to decide on the case in which former Managing Director of the National Social Security Fund, Richard Byarugaba, is challenging the decision not to renew his contract.

    On Monday, Civil Division Judge Musa Ssekaana fixed the date for judgment after the lawyers representing the parties appeared before him to ascertain if they had complied with his previous directives regarding putting in written submissions.

    Wanyama Kodoli, the state attorney, represented the government; Augustine Edoti represented the managing director of NSSF, Patrick Ayota, who is the third respondent; and Anthony Bazira, Byarugaba’s lawyer.

    When the matter came up, Bazira told the judge that they had not filed a rejoinder to the respective defences filed by the respondents in this case because they had been served late.

    “Your lordship, as per the schedule of this court, we have not been able to file our submissions in rejoinder because of the late service of the submissions on the respondent’s counsel. I have spoken to my learned friend from the Attorney General, and I have not yet spoken to counsel for the third respondent (Ayota’s), and I was praying to file our submissions in a rejoinder in a week,” said Bazira.

    Bazira asked to be given more time to make a rejoinder.

    Consequently, Justice Ssekaana granted Byarugaba’s lawyer more time as per his request and fixed March 7th, 2024, to decide the case.

    The evidence before the Court indicates that in August 2023, Byarugaba filed a petition against the Attorney General and the Gender and Labour Minister, Betty Amongi, seeking court orders for Amongi to fulfill her statutory duties and complete his reappointment as the NSSF MD, as recommended by the Board and required by law.

    Byarugaba’s argument is based on procedural irregularities and the decision leading the Minister to the Board’s recommendation for his reappointment. He said there was a violation of his legitimate expectations by not affording him a fair hearing.

    He further went on to say that Patrick Ayota, his successor, was not fit to head the NSSF.

    Byarugaba had served as the NSSF MD since August 1, 2010, and his second appointment, which began on November 29, 2017, expired on November 30, 2022.

    Byarugaba contends that even before his second contract could run its course, Amongi attempted to prematurely end it by stating that he should have retired upon reaching 60 years of age. He adds that only with the intervention of the Attorney General was he able to complete his second term of office.

    The NSSF Board of Directors had recommended renewing the contracts of both Byarugaba and his then-deputy, Ayota.

    However, Amongi renewed only the contract of the Deputy MD and deferred Byarugaba’s appointment, citing various allegations, including financial impropriety, collusion with contractors, defiance of presidential directives, and corruption.

    Despite meetings at State House on December 6, 2022, and receiving guidance from President Yoweri Museveni to conclude Byarugaba’s appointment process, Amongi did not follow the guidance.

    Byarugaba argues that this, along with ignoring the February 2023 report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the state of affairs at NSSF, where he was cleared of financial impropriety allegations, makes the decision not to renew his contract illegal, irrational, and procedurally incorrect.

    According to Byarugaba, the decision also disregarded the Inspector General of Government’s report, which cleared him of allegations and supported the Board’s recommendation based on his previous performance in office.

    However, as the matter was pending in court, Amongi elevated Ayota and appointed him as the managing director of the fund.

    Byarugaba asked the court to allow him to amend his petition and include Ayota as the third respondent so that he could be given a fair hearing and defend himself over the allegations. His application succeeded, and Ayota was consequently placed as the third respondent in this case so as to determine issues at once.

    After adding Ayota, Byarugaba told the court that Ayota was appointed on August 18th, 2023, while holding the substantive statutory position of Deputy MD for a fixed five-year term, making him ineligible for the MD-up appointment.

    Through his lawyer, Bazira, Byarugaba requested the court invalidate Ayota’s appointment and issue a permanent injunction to prevent Ayota from acting as the MD of the fund.

    After being listed as a respondent, Ayota swore a 38-page affidavit firing back at his former boss, saying that he (Ayota) has all the requisite competencies and work experience to serve as Managing Director of NSSF.

    He said that the interests of the entire countrywide membership of the fund override any purported interest that Byarugaba has in a leadership position that he was found unfit to occupy.

    Ayota says that, in the interest of justice, Byarugaba’s appointment should not be granted. He argued that if granted, there would be a leadership lacuna that could put the whole fund in limbo without a substantive accounting officer to safeguard members’ savings.

    According to Ayota, his appointment was done lawfully, is valid, and was not done to defeat the present application for judicial review, as alleged by Byarugaba.

    Ayota further stated that the 18 trillion shilling fund is at risk of misuse and stagnation and warned that it would be against the public interest for the fund to go without strategic leadership.

    He says in the interest of justice, fairness, and equity, Byarugaba’s application should be dismissed with costs for lack of merit and to favour the stability of the fund.

    Records indicated that the NSSF, under the stewardship of Byarugaba and his then-Deputy Ayota, currently has 2,000,000 members and assets worth 18 trillion shillings, and based on this performance, Byarugaba wants the decision not to renew his contract to be set aside.

    It’s against this background that the court is set to deliver its decision next year.

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