This is a story of the ministry of public service demanding for a supplementary budget to pay off pensions arrears.
Led by the Pensions minister, Sezi Mbaguta and Permanent Secretary, Jimmy Rwamafa, the officials appeared before the budget committee of parliament and were for several hours put to task to explain why there is no system that could put to an end complaints about pension arrears.
Mbaguta Rwamafa and their technical senior officials had gone to parliament to defend a recent request for a supplementary budget to be approved of 65 billion shillings to clear arrears some of which include those dating back to 1992. But the MPs were angry that the ministry of public service has over the years been working as if they do not know the projections of how many retired Ugandans should be paid per month.
The committe lectured the officials on how best the public service ministry can put in place budget systems that will once and for all put to an end the practice of demanding for supplementary budgets for pensions arrears payments.
The MPs complained that even with the budget for the current financial year approved for pensioners, the ministry was still presenting payment arrears of over ten years ago. They threatened to throw out the ministry officials without approving the supplementary request.
A supplementary budget is money that is requested by government as an emergency after the normal budget approval, to handle expenditures that were not allocated in the main budget.
The MPs argued that the ministry, given its many senior technical officers, should be in position to project the number of workers who retire every year and budget for them accordingly, so that there is no more demand for pensions’ arrears.
Last year, government requested for and received 113 billion shillings to clear all the pension arrears that were outstanding by June 30th 2010.
But Mbaguta said that her ministry has been faced with a dilemma of continuously receiving pension claims by retiring civil servants who are ignorant of how and when to claim for their pensions. She said that this was why the ministry had now embarked on a sensitization throughout the country alongside the payments, in order to educate the civil servants.
Rwamafa told the MPs that his ministry has introduced a new computerized system, known as the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System – IPPS, which will now assist them to create a special pension roll in the country.
Robert Kiwanuka, Director for Pensions in the ministry, said that the system will start work in June this year with the new financial year.
He said that even with the current challenges, they were paying all pensioners at the banks nearest to them, by 15th to 20th of every month so that they do not suffer lining up with other customers at banks.
Mbaguta explained that the continuous demand for supplementary requests to pay pensions arrears was driven by the fact that pension is a debt and an obligation for government and so whenever someone claims for it, it has to be processed.
The MPs directed the ministry to work on budgeting on an annual basis. They also advised the ministry to educate retiring civil servants to know that their pension benefits would be processed on annual basis.