Uganda legislators are up in arms to bring a law to exclude their pension benefits from being part of their estates upon death and that should not be a subject of the succession law.
The architect of the law is Pian County MP Achia Remigio who has already been granted leave of Parliament to introduce a private member’s Bill, Parliamentary Pensions (Amendment) Bill amending the current Parliamentary Pension’s Act to provide for the protection of their monies.
The legislators argue that rather than being governed by the succession laws, their pension should be treated under the TrustShip law which requires equality and respect of the deceased’s wishes.
The Succession law in Uganda deals with the management of the properties of the deceased. And it demands that before the beneficiary accesses the assets of the deceased, he must have letters of administration.
In a motion requesting Parliament to grant him leave to introduce the amendments last week, Hon.Achia Remigio told MPs that the current succession laws contradict with the deceased’s pension wishes especially in cases where the nominee is neither the spouse nor dependent.
He said that the implementation as currently the pension law governing the members’ pension has posed some challenges to the operations of the scheme especially when it comes to the distribution of death benefits to relatives and dependents of deceased members.
“Currently we are required to fill a form indicating the beneficiary in the event of death. But we have faced a challenge with some of our relatives when they go to court and get letters of administration and say the benefits are subject to the cession Act. This contradicts the purpose and rationale of asking us to declare the beneficiary of the money in case of death,” Remegio said.
“So it’s my request that it should not be subject to succession laws so that in case of death, whoever the member would have nominated as the beneficiary receives the money instead of going to court,” he said.
Remigio cautioned members to be clear about the beneficiaries. “We have had problems where members put their girlfriends, then they change and say remove that,’ he said sending the house chaired by deputy speaker Jacob Oulanyah into a burst of prolonged laughter.
Remigio said, in addition, the amendment seeks to trim the powers of the National Medical Board (UMB) to grant permission to members who intend to access part of their pension for medical treatment.
Instead, Remigio said permission should be sought from any medical professional with the permission of the board of the pension.
The current Parliamentary Pensions Act makes provision for a portion of the members’ benefits to be assigned for medical treatment and allows members seeking early retirement to access their accrued benefits upon recommendation of the National Medical Board among others.
“The current requirement is that for one to access the money, he has to have permission from Uganda Medical Board. But we are having challenges with that. Most members have died because UMB does not sit and clear the member’s request on time. So we want to amend the requirement and replace it with the recommendation from the medical practitioner approved by the board,” he said.
He argued that the amendment of the Act is necessary to promote good governance of the scheme and enhancement of efficient operations of the scheme in as far as payment and distribution of death benefits of members and pensioners, access to the funds for medical treatment and early retirement of members is concerned,” he said.
Remigio said the office of the Clerk to Parliament is a busy office and therefore the Clerk should not be the principal signatory to the scheme account.
He said the amendment also seeks to increase the amount of money available for members to borrow. Every month, the scheme receives sh500m in interests from the loans lent to members and therefore increasing the percentage means increased interests.
In 2007, Parliament established a Parliamentary Pensions Fund for the payment or granting of pensions or retirement benefits to Members of Parliament and members of staff of the Parliamentary Commission among other matters.
It has a membership of over 190 members with an asset base of over sh200b. The government makes a monthly contribution of 30% while a member contributes 15%. When he leaves Parliament after a term, he is paid a lump sum, after two terms, he is paid a third of the money but continues to receive an annuity for 15 years.
MP Ibrahim Ssemujju, however, opposed the move saying it would portray parliament as a selfish institution given that the country has been moving to liberalize the pension sector.
“We have been talking about the liberalisation of the pension sector. Why are we easing our pension first before dealing with the whole subject of pension? We will be portrayed as selfish. For you, you don’t want humps on the road but allow others to travel on the same road,” he warned.
Kenneth Lubogo argued that it’s unacceptable to remove it from the succession act. “Thinking that someone will take the money when you have left it to someone else is unacceptable. Let’s not legislate like this,” he argued
MP Betty Nambooze supported the move saying it would help members access their medical treatment on time. “When I had problems, I had to use my own budget after failing to get clearance from the medical board. This is why I support some of the amendments,” she said.
Oulanyah although granted Remigio leave, he warned him over the Bill saying its objective exceeded what the Parliamentary Commission resolved on the matter.
The parliamentary Commission reportedly agreed to amend the Act to increase the percentage of the pension fund that can be lent to members.
“We are granting you leave but we are not going to support some of the additional provisions because they contradict with other laws especially the NMB,” he said.
Last year, the government tabled the Retirement Benefits Liberalization Bill but later withdrew it from Parliament.