Kampala, Uganda | URN | A move by the Uganda National COVID-19 Response Fund to solicit money from salaried employees has attracted a backlash from Ugandan employees. Many of them are accusing the government of being insensitive to the agony brought about by the outbreak of coronavirus disease.
The comments come a few days after the fund reached out to employers asking for their support to collect at least 10,000 Shillings from each employee in order to enable the fund to raise money for Uganda’s COVID-19 response. The Fund intends to raise at least 15 billion Shillings from employees for the cause.
According to the chairperson of the Uganda National Response Fund to the COVID-19 pandemic Emmanuel Katongole, letters were formally written to a number of Chief Executive Officers after a virtual engagement with selected business leaders to extend the appeal for a voluntary contribution during the month of May and June.
However, the appeal has attracted public criticism with many people wondering why the government is moving it’s responsibility to employees who are already threatened by job losses and pay cuts occasioned by the outbreak of coronavirus disease.
Several Ugandans are questioning why the government which has just given a bailout to Members of Parliament is the same seeking to tap into the meagre earnings by those in formal employment, a category which is heavily taxed through Pay-as-You-Earn and Local Service Tax.
Lawyer and activist Michael Aboneka notes that the solicitation is an unfair move.
Aboneka also notes that the Ugandan government has already received huge sums of money to fight COVID-19 pandemic including grants from the international community on top of several supplementary budgets passed by parliament.
He says before the money is solicited from poor local employees, the government should first account for what he has been receiving all along.
Workers’ MP Agnes Kunihira notes that the move was miscalculated especially because most of them have lost security for the jobs and cautions employers against making any deductions without the consent of their employees. Kunihira says such a move would be illegal but hastens to add that employees who are willing to contribute voluntarily are free to do so.
The Chairman General of the National Organisation of Trade Unions-NOTU Usher Wilson Owere says that the move could be a ploy to divert workers from demanding a percentage of their savings from the National Social Security Fund-NSSF.
“We know how the game is played. We will not discuss this minor issue they are raising. We are keeping our eyes on the ball. The real debate is on NSSF money,” Owere told this publication.
Jaamie Matovu, another concerned Uganda questioned if the government had forgotten its mandate and turned into a begging association. “Money has been flying from all corners and we saw it being wrongly distributed where the ICT Ministry asked for billions for billboards. This is the time for the government to prove to its citizens that they are the right people to rule this nation going forward.”
The fund has since sent out an apology to Ugandans who may have misconstrued the appeal and explained that the contribution is purely voluntary and no single employee would be forced to contribute.
“This is not compulsory giving but a purely voluntary appeal made to the selected categories to support the health sector,” Katongole emphasized in a letter sent out this afternoon.