Geraldine Ssali isnt a new face to the Ugandan public. As Deputy Managing Director (DMD)of the capital-heavy workers pension fund (NSSF), the 43 year old has always been in the news.
Last week however, as her contract comes to an end, the NSSF board recommended that her contract be terminated over her “dismal performance”.
The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) recommended Geraldine Busulwa Ssali be relieved of her duties after a detailed Staff and Corporate Affairs (SACA) Committee of the Board report noted that she was not suitable for the position.
Information reaching this website indicates that the board arrived at the decision to terminate her services after receiving advice from the board’s sub-committee on Staff and Corporate Affairs (SACA). The SACA committee report, largely agreed with a report tabled to it by the Funds Managing Director Richard Byarugaba- Geraldine’s supervisor and after discussing it, they anonymously agreed that Geraldine’s contract should not be renewed and proceeded to advise the full board on the same.
SACA is composed of Florence Mawejje, Penninah Tukamwesiga, Nelson Makwasi and Richard Byarugaba. Mawejje is a seasoned HR professional who has worked at MTN and is currently the HR boss at Centenary Bank, but also serves on the boards of Umeme and Uganda Clays.
Seven members out of the full board, sat on September 25th 2017 to review and consider SACA’s report and a possibility of renewing the contracts of the 3 statutory appointees- Richard Byarugaba (Managing Director), Geraldine Ssali (Deputy Managing Director) and Richard Wabwire (Corporation Secretary) – the trio’s 3 year contracts are due to run out on (30th November 2017, 29th October 2017 and 29th October 2017 respectively)
While Richard Byarugaba’s and Wabwire’s constracts were recommended for renewal Geraldine Busulwa’s was not recommended.
The NSSF board has 9 members. Out of the 7 who attended the meeting that ‘fired” Geraldine, 6 voted against her and only 1 voted in her favor. Even though all the others who did not attend, voted in her favour, she still would have been fired by a 66% board majority.
Finance Minister notified
In a letter dated September 26th, 2017 addressed to the Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija, the NSSF Board Patrick Byabakama Kabarenge noted that Ssali be allowed to exit from the Fund because her performance over the last three years has been just ‘good enough’.
The Board Chairman noted that she had performed between A and C even though she contests that assessment for some period and most of it was alluded to the good performance of her direct subordinates.
The board also notes that, “her character has been abrasive as evidenced by various caution letters in her file. “The relationship between her and her the Managing Director has been disconcerting and not good to the Funds reputation.
Various attempts to intermediate between the two offices have come to Nil,” the board notes.
The board also noted that the Ssali’s three year at the Fund had been characterized by issues pertaining to personal conduct or rather misconduct She routinely ignored the authority of both the board and her line manager, her disciplinary conduct and personal judgment was lacking that necessitated caution for reckless communication attributed to her, raising false allegations against the fund to PPDA and the board and clandestinely attempting to obstruct disciplinary proceedings against a staff member.
Ssali was appointed a deputy MD of NSSF by the Ministry of Finance on a three year contract which came into effect on October 28th, 2014. Her contract expires on October 29th 2017. Sources at NSSF say that she wants back at the Fund but her indiscipline that has put her at logger heads with the Richard Byarugaba- her direct supervisor, the board and even fellow staff and subordinates, has let her down.
While the NSSF board has not publicly responded on their recommendations to the minister, a statement by NSSF confirmed the board’s sitting but did not give more details.
NSSF’s Head of Marketing and Communications, Barbara Arimis said “The Board has a mandate to make performance-based recommendations on the renewal and or non-renewal of contracts of the three statutory appointees (Managing Director, Deputy Managing Director and Corporation Secretary). We are aware that the board has made a recommendation to the minister in regard to the contracts of the three statutory appointees but at the moment we are not privy to this information. Further to that, the decision to renew or not renew a contract of a statutory appointee rests with the minister of finance planning and Economic Development.”
On her personal conduct, the SACA paper notes that, “For the Financial Year 2015/2016 she returned a very weak performance leading to the board declining to award her a bonus pay. She has also routinely ignored the authority of both the board and her line manager. Specifically on June 22, 2016 she refused to attend a conciliatory meeting with the Board, in spite of having been given sufficient notice.”
The report also notes that Ssali “has during the contract period had issues touching on her disciplinary conduct and judgment, issues which have necessitated issuing her with letters of caution. On June 6th 2016, she was issued with caution letter to refrain from reckless behavior regarding the Funds business after various accusations attributed to her were carried in a newspaper article dated May 17th2017 regarding her relations with the Managing Director.”
The SACA report also indicates that on November 16th, 2016 Ssali, “was issued a caution letter by the Board for raising false allegations against the Fund, to the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority ( PPDA) and the Board Chairman, in total disregard of internal processes. She falsely alleged that the contract for the renewal for Security and K-9 services were done irregularly. This was thoroughly investigated and it was established that her allegations were false and baseless. This poor judgment on her part unduly hurt the Fund’s public image and undermined confidence in the Funds policies and processes.”
It also notes that Ssali, “on March 2, 2017 was issued with a caution letter clandestinely attempting to obstruct implementation of due disciplinary process. A staff member, having been subjected to a well-managed due process in accordance with the Funds established policies and procedures, was terminated. Following this termination Ssali unilaterally called the staff member, advising him to disregard the termination letter.”
The report further indicates that Ssali’s personal conduct had continued to be very disruptive to the smooth running of the institution and a lot of restraint has been invoked in managing her to ensure civility and performance at the Fund. She has undermined the position of the Managing Director by overtly and covertly engaging in acts that amount to fighting the Institution of the NSSF. Her performance appraisal of B for 2014/15, C for 2015/16 and A for 2016/17 could have resulted in marginal recommendation to renew her contract. However given the record of her personal conduct over the three year contract period, she has demonstrated she is not suitable for the position of Deputy Managing Director.”
The board further recommended that the position of the Deputy Managing Director be filled internally as there are officers who could competently occupy this strategic position.
“One officer should immediately run the office in an acting capacity as the Board Chairman consults the Minister for a formal appointment from the appointing authority. As a last-gap measure the Board should be allowed to appoint the Deputy MD.”
Efforts to get a comment from Ssali were unsuccessful, but in an interview with Chimpreports.com she dismissed the board’s recommendation as inconsequential. “The board doesn’t make such decisions. It is not the first time the board has made such a pronouncement; but ultimately this is the minister’s decision to make and that is what we should all wait for,” she said.
Geraldine further said that her “performance speaks for itself. I have been way up there.”
“When I was acting (MD); that was the highest statistics we have ever had. We hit the UGX 5 trillion mark (in NSSF assets); we exceeded 13 percent (in customers’ interest); I put UGX 272 billion aside in surplus, and that was the highest ever; I made the highest profit of UGX 850billion for the Fund.”
Geraldine refers to the period between December 2013 to September 2014 when she was Acting Managing Director, before Richard Byarugaba bounced back as Managing Director.
Again this is another self-praising move by Geraldine. First of all the Umeme and Kakira investments form less than 5% of the fund’s investment portfolio. It shall also be recalled that
However, one analysts has dismissed her claims on performance, as yet another “self-praising” move, typical of her character.
“You see NSSF’s financial year runs from July- June and as such any investment gains made during the financial year in reference (July 2013- June 2014), were partly the work of Richard Byarugaba, who left the fund in December 2013,” noted the analyst.
“But most importantly, over 80% of NSSF’s earnings are from fixed income assets- many of which range from 1 year to 10 year treasury bonds. Therefore for Geraldine to claim credit for growing the Fund’s worth during her short stint as Acting Managing Director is basically her, wanting to steal away Richard Byarugaba’s success and brand it as her own,” added the analyst.
There are concerns that the current NSSF ACT which allows the minister to appoint the board, the managing director and the Deputy Managing Director creates problems and a potential for frequent clashes.
In fact, sources privy to the infighting attributes Geraldine’s stubbornness to this legal gaps allowing the MDMD to think she is not accountable to the MD.
“The law needs to be revised to allow the board to appoint both the MD and the DMD and thus keep them in check. You cannot effectively supervise someone you did not hire or cannot fire. There is an urgent need to address the administrative gap- because both MD and DMD are appointed by Finance Minister, the DMD finds it convenient to disrespect the board and MD. This needs to be addressed,” said the analyst.
Insubordination takes centre stage
In 2016 Ssali was suspended by NSSF board on grounds of indiscipline. She sued NSSF, the board chairman Kaberenge and Byarugaba and the courts cancelled her suspension and reinstated her in office pending investigations into her alleged insubordination. However two days after the court order, the security guards at Workers House, blocked her from entering her office forcing her to go to court and sue the Byarugaba and Kaberenge over contempt of a court.
She would later hold a meeting with Finance Minister Kasaijja and some members of the board and it was resolved that she be reinstated but on condition that she withdraws all the cases against NSSF in the High Court.
She however maintained that NSSF, the board chairman and the MD to pay her a fine of Shs 1billion plus compensation for contempt of court.