Government seeks more time to find beneficiaries of the Shs7b pension for former EAC employees.

About 45 years since the collapse of the first East African Community (EAC), a total of 156 listed former employees that hailed from Uganda have not been traced in order to receive their pension and gratuity.

The 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Affairs, Rebecca Kadaga informed Parliament on Wednesday that her Ministry is stuck with Shs7b after the listed beneficiaries failed to show up despite a list being advertised in the media in December last year.

“I have been trying to locate the beneficiaries because my father was an employee. I have struggled to find 156 former staff of EAC. I have gone on radio and we have sent messages to Districts. I would propose that we give ourselves one year. I have been looking for some of these people for over one year but I can’t find them. I have their money which is over Shs7b.” Said Kadaga.

The former Speaker of Parliament was responding to the recommendation carried in the report of the Committee on East African Community Affairs that the financial year 2023/24 budget for the Ministry of East African Community Affairs (MEACA) and that of the Ministry of Public Service should not be passed unless the former employees of the former defunct EAC are paid.

In the report presented by Namisindwa District Woman MP, Sarah Kayagi, the Committee observed that since the collapse of the EAC in 1977, Uganda is the only member state of the defunct regional bloc that has never finished paying pensions and gratuity of the former employees.

The report revealed that Kenya and Tanzania who were the other Member States of the defunct EAC made separate laws to aid the payment of the pensioners while Uganda was to rely on a Decree by then President Idi Amin and on the Pensions Act hence refranchising some of the would-be beneficiaries.

The former EAC employees were deployed in the regional corporations that include; the East African Railways (EAR); The East African Posts and Telecommunications (EAP &T); the East African Harbours (EAH); the East African Airways (EAA); the East African Extelcoms, a subsidiary of EAP &T; and, the East African Cargo Handling, a subsidiary of EAH.

After the collapse of EAC, the EAC Mediation Agreement of 1984 came into force whereby it was agreed that Crown Agents, a British company that was managing the assets for the defunct regional bloc was charged with remitting the money that was in its coffers at the time.

The Committee informed Parliament that during its investigations, it was observed that Crown Agents had paid the Government of Uganda as it was the case for Kenya and Tanzania hence these governments being obliged to pay their nationals were employed under the Corporations or General Fund Services (GFS).

However, according to the Committee, the Ministry of Public Service of the Republic of Uganda has maintained that Crown Agents failed to honour the retirement benefits of its members.

“Using diplomatic channels, Bank of Uganda, in liaison with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, should engage Crown Agents to establish whether or not Crown Agents transferred Assets due to Uganda at the division date to enable MEACA execute its mandate. A status report on the matter should be tabled before Parliament before consideration of the Ministerial Policy Statements for Financial Year 2023/24” Reads part of the report.

The issue of generating information from Crown Agents about whether Uganda received its 26 percent of the Assets share, notwithstanding, the Committee reported that some progress has been registered in payment of the former employees of the defunct EAC. The House adopted a recommendation that a complete approach and conclusive settlement of the benefits and claims of the former Uganda employees of the defunct EAC.

Meanwhile, legislators were perplexed at hearing in the report that some of the files of the claimants got lost during the Crime Intelligence and Investigation Department (CIID) and Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) probe of the pension scam in 2012. As a result of the loss of the files, it has been claimed that payments have been made to fictitious beneficiaries.

 The MPs who said that the suffering and ageing would be beneficiaries are their constituents who wondered why the government has failed to trace them yet they know each other. They said that the list of the 156 missing beneficiaries that was laid by Kadaga will be available to them so that they can participate in mobilizing these people who have not received their money for 45 years.

David Wakikona, the MP for Bukigai County who had worked with EAC for four years by the time it collapsed in 1977 informed the House that he has also not received any payments and continues to miss on the lists of beneficiaries.

“When they say they put a list (in the media), where was Wakikona’s name on the list? When I went to Finance, I was told by one of the Commissioners that ‘we release money every year and they return that money to us.’ I carried the whole file from the Ministry of Public Service, it indicates all my age and the institutions I have gone through. I don’t hear my name and I have never been invited” Said Wakikona.

The lawmakers said that it is better for the available money to be paid to the known claimants some of whom were in the Public Gallery during the Wednesday sitting presided over by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa.

 “It is too painful to work anywhere whether it is in the Government or not without pay. For those many people who worked and they are not known, it is better we try to use the LC 3 Chairpersons combined with the GISOs (Gombolola Internal Security Officers) to look for these people. It is time to put the CIID Department to task to produce the missing files” said Toroma County MP, Stephen Koluo.

Goreth Namugga, the Mawogola South MP said that; “I don’t know whether you feel the same for those who have waited for all the years for their statutory obligation. I urge the Minister to let us pay those who are verified.  Give us lists and we look for these people so that we look for them”

However, Kadaga said that her Ministry has been paying some of the people whose files are available and can be traced. She said that the problem of the missing data was inherited from the Ministry of Public Service when MEACA came into force about a decade ago.

“There are people who are being paid. Those who did the ten years are on pension. Those who are not paid are the people who are not a record. The gentlemen who are here (claimants in the Gallery) I have said I know them and their issue is computation. Speaker I would be very happy if the members would assist me to locate some of these people.” Kadaga added.

Kadaga also laid on the table a list of 460 people who have so far been paid but insisted that those who never worked for 10 years and above including Wakikon who served only four years don’t qualify for pension.

Deputy Speaker Tayebwa ruled that after the adoption of the report, MEACA and the Ministry of Public Service should collect available information from claimants whose files were lost by CIID in order to reconstruct their files for payment.

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