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Africa News of Thursday, 18 March 2021

Source: monitor.co.ug

Ugandan retired police officer chases pension for 37 years in vain

Two years before President Museveni took power in 1986, Mr Joseph Bataziine, 89, a resident of Kicerenyo Village in Rugando Sub-county, Rwampara District, retired from active service and started processing his pension.

Mr Bataziine had served in Uganda Police Force as a Fire Constable, and 37 years after retiring he is yet to get what is due to him.

His certificate of discharge shows that on June 11, 1984, when he left the service, he was working at the Aerodrome Fire Service Entebbe.

Mr Bitaziine was recruited into the Fire Brigade at Entebbe International Airport in 1961 under the Ministry of Works and was later transferred to Uganda Police Force.

His Uganda Police number, according to his documents seen by Daily Monitor, is 7183.

“[Bitaziine] is a police officer duly appointed under Police Act and has the powers and privileges of a police officer,” reads one of the documents. The documents further indicate he was paid gratuity of Shs80,000 upon discharge at the age of 52, having served for 23 years.

“We were retired to allow other people to join the force,” a frail Bitaziine said on Monday.

He was in 1962 transferred to Arua airport as a fire fighter, from Entebbe. He also served in Moroto, Kasese (three different times), Tororo (two different times), Masindi, and Jinja before he was redeployed in Entebbe from 1981 to 1984.

“After retirement, I came home and joined my wife. I have been taking care of my children and grandchildren. All these years, I have never received pension, I have provided the necessary documents. I have tried all possible means to claim it but I have failed,” Mr Bitaziine said.

“Now I am very weak and sickly. I can no longer manage to pursue the pension because I also don’t have money to take care of myself and the family,” he added.

Mr Hilary Kulaige, who was the District Police Commander of Entebbe in 2008, wrote to the OC AP Section (where officers’ personal files are kept) at the police headquarters in Kampala about Mr Bataziine’s matter after the latter sought his assistance.

“The above mentioned officer was a policeman who retired in 1984 at a rank of Sergeant. But up to now, he has never got his pension and he lost his retirement letter. Therefore, my request [to you] is to assist to trace copy of that letter from his AP [file] if possible. This gentle man is my neighbour in the village. Any assistance rendered to him will be highly appreciated,” reads the May 20 letter.

The letter was delivered at Uganda police headquarters open registry on the same day it was signed by Mr Kulaige.

Seven years later in 2015, Mr Bataziine went to the Inspectorate of Government, Mbarara regional office, seeking assistance on the same matter. Mr Kenneth Owor, the regional inspectorate officer at Mbarara, wrote to the director of human resources in Uganda Police Force on October 7, 2015.

“The Inspectorate of Government received a complaint from Joseph Bataziine in which he alleged that; He joined the Ministry of Internal Affairs under the department of Uganda Police in 1961 and retired in 1984 at the rank of Sergeant. Despite several efforts made to have his pension paid, to date he has never been paid,” the letter reads in part.

“Information so far received from the Ministry of Public Service indicates that there were no records found pertaining to Mr Bataziine’s pension… The Ministry of Public Service has advised that since payment of pension benefits has been decentralised to government entities with effect from 1/7/2015, the matter be referred to you to appropriately handle.

The purpose of this letter, therefore, is to forward this matter to you for appropriate handling,” the letter further reads.

Although Mr Bitaziine’s hope of getting his pension keeps fading, the old man still believes concerned government officials can still come to his rescue.

“I have supporting documents to enable me get my pension including arrears. I am sick and need regular medical attention. I have been patient enough and now nearing my death. I kindly ask them to look into the matter and save me,” he said.

He is battling prostate cancer and discharges urine through a tube. Two of his six children died and left him with four orphans whom he has been taking care of. His house is also in sorry state. He only has an acre of banana plantation as the lone source of livelihood.

His wife, Ms Maria Kendeba, 75, acknowledges that Mr Bitaziine made a lot of effort to get his pension but failed. “He has been going to Entebbe and Kibuli; he would spend there three or five days but would return without the money,” she said.

Mr Lawrence Twesigye, the secretary of Mbarara Pensioners Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisation, said he took Mr Bitaziine to some offices in Kampala but they have not succeeded.

“On May 31, 2019, I went with him to the police headquarters in Naguru, we left there a letter and they promised us that they would work on his issue. But ever since, we have never seen or heard anything positive,” Mr Twesigye said.

The police spokesperson, Mr Fred Enanga, yesterday said Mr Bataziine will be able to get pension including arrears next month.

“The matter is in advanced stages. Previously, his records were under the Public Service. His documents were retrieved from national archives. He will be paid next month including arrears. We commend our personnel who have worked hard to secure his documents,” Mr Enanga said.

Mr Bitaziine was born in 1932. He studied up to Primary Six at St Aloysius in Nyamitanga Mbarara. His parents did not have money to pay for Junior level education. He trained as a tailor. After three years of doing tailoring work in Rwampara, he went to work as a clerk in a coffee factory in Masaka District. He later relocated to Entebbe where he resumed his tailoring work.

Mr Bitaziine’s friends at a local church in Entebbe connected him to their friends at the airport where he secured work as a cleaner before he was recruited, trained and employed as a fire-fighter in 1961.

Last year, the Daily Monitor broke a story about misappropriation of about Shs63b meant for pensioners in the Ministry of Public Service.

The money was meant to clear outstanding pension claims of 1,018 former East African Community workers but went missing between February and October last year. The money is said to have been siphoned through Cairo International Bank, with connivance from top employees of the ministries of Public Service and Finance.

Since then, former Public Service PS Jimmy Lwamafa and Stephen Kiwanuka-Kunsa, the commissioner of pensions, principal accountant Christopher Obey and the head of IT, Mr Richard Lubega, have been arraigned in court. They are accused of theft, abuse of office and negligence of duty, among others.

Liberalising the sector
The pension sector is composed of the Public Service Pension Service Scheme, which is a government scheme that caters for the pensions of civil servants, and the National Social Security Fund, which is responsible for the retirement benefits under private sector.

The Public Service Pension Scheme regulated by the Pensions Act, Cap 286 is a defined non- contributory system that is guaranteed by the State and funded from taxes collected by the government thus making it fiscally unsustainable. There is thus a need to rectify the situation by enacting a law that will transform the Public Service Pension Scheme into a contributory scheme.

There have been efforts since the early 1990s to introduce reforms in the retirement benefits sector. The liberalisation of the retirement benefits sector is expected to bring about fair competition for mandatory contributions and innovation of products that will improve efficiency, transparency, governance, accountability and harnessing the growth of the retirement benefits sector.

The Retirement Benefits Sector Liberalisation Bill, 2011, is intended to remove monopoly of a single retirement benefits scheme over mandatory contributions and provide fair competition among licenced retirement benefit schemes for mandatory contributions.

Parliament is yet pass the Bill.

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