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MPs Query UBC Move To Write Off NSSF Arrears

UBC MD Winston Agaba (Left) and his deputy, Maurice Mugisha before COSASE on Monday.

A section of lawmakers on Parliament’s Committee of Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE), have queries the presidential directive ordering for the write off of principal interest and penalties accrued on employee savings at National Social Security Fund by Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC).

The queries were raised by Medard Sseggona (Busiro East) who wondered the legal basis President Museveni relied on to order the write off of UBC’s debts at NSSF, which is a private entity, whose funds are owned by savers, not just Government.

“I want you also to clarify whether the Presidential directive includes writing off NSSF. My interest is, NSSF is a private fund, it is money that belongs to contributors, you can’t therefore, write off their debt just like that. Penalty yes because that goes to Government, so Government can waive off its own money. Even with principal and interest continue to attract interest and the President has no powers over it, he can only deal with it by paying. It isn’t their money, it is money belonging to those contributors,” said Sseggona.

His concerns followed remarks by Winston Agaba, Managing Director of UBC who decried the low funding to the national broadcaster, which has crippled the Corporations operations and condemned it to debts, which attracted the intervention of the President that directed the write off of some of UBC’s debts, prompting Sseggona to seek clarification on whether the debts set to be written off included NSSF.

Agaba replied saying, “Yes, the directive includes writing off the penalty for NSSF because the penalties on NSSF keep compounding because the principal outstanding, the president said, that should be taken care of. Umeme alone, every month we need Shs280M per month, to buy units because we are on the pre-paid system. We were put on the pre-paid, so we must have the money to buy the units.”

The National Broadcaster’s boss added, “Uganda Revenue Authority until recently has been garnishing our accounts, we had back and forth, run in with URA to the point where they wanted to even close the station down. We made appeals through our Minister and we managed to get to the President and we managed to table all our challenges and the President said that UBC should be supported with Shs30Bn starting this financial year. The other directive was, all UBC debts be captured, verified and written off. This, we have had reconciliations with URA, and the directive was, the Prime Minister to champion the writing off of these debts. Up to date, this hasn’t happened.”

He also appealed to the Committee to ensure that all the money earmarked for the revamp of UBC is availed stating, “It has been a journey of pain, faith, patriotism. In fact, many of the workers at UBC, our pay, in comparison to the industry is quite appalling. But, I would also on a positive note say, not all hope is lost because if you have been following the trends on UBC, our programming has greatly improved, the quality picture is excellent and we can only hope that with the support of you our shareholders, we pray that the national broadcaster be seen in what our mandate is.”

However, Sseggona wondered how UBC can talk revamping the national broadcaster yet the station has no strategic plan to guide this revamping stating, “I am also concerned that since 2017, which is now 8years you continue to be pampered, you continue to ask money from the treasury. I have understood your explanation of being modelled along the BBC model, which BBC is well funded, my concern is why you couldn’t phase the growth that you are looking at. One of the accusations in the Auditor General’s report is lack of a strategic plan. Definitely that can’t be blamed on underfunding or lack of funding.”

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