A former employee of the National Social Security Fund-NSSF, Joseph Sooka has been sentenced to five years in prison for withdrawing over Shs152 million from the suspense account.
This is after NSSF handed him over to the Uganda Police in October 2019 and the Director of Public Prosecutions following an internal investigation that established suspicious withdraws he had fraudulently processed over time.
The suspense account is where the Fund temporarily saves contributions with unclear details of the member accounts to which they should be deposited. The money is later allocated to the respective member accounts upon reconciliation with the contributing employers.
The Fund’s Internal Audit Department in October 2019 established that Sooka had presented fictitious claim documents that he used to access monies of the unsuspecting members between May 2017 and July 2019.
“All the monies released on account of the false claims was credited to the (bank) accounts controlled by the accused…,” according to the judgment delivered by Lady Justice Margaret Tibulya on February 17, 2023.
At the time of his arrest, Sooka had fraudulently claimed monies for seven members.
The Fund’s internal audit team identified unusually withdraws on the suspense account following a tip-off by one of the victims. It was discovered that the genuine members hadn’t claimed their monies although claims had been processed in their favor.
Sooka was convicted on a total of ten counts that included embezzlement, money laundering, forgery and uttering of false documents.
Justice Margaret Tibulya convicted Sooka on each of the ten counts as charged. He was asked to refund the Shs152,720,670 he had stolen from the Fund and banned from assuming any positions in public offices for a period of ten years.
Barbra Arimi, the Fund’s Head of Marketing and Corporate Affairs said that the win demonstrated the Fund’s zero tolerance for fraud.
“We are committed to protecting our members’ savings at all costs and have put in place several security checks to prevent fraud, especially from the suspense account.”
The Fund has since put in place initiatives to mitigate the growth of balances on the suspense account. These initiatives include the e-collections portal which makes it impossible for employers to remit without complete employee information, publication of suspense in different media platforms as well as field engagements aimed at tracing members on the suspense account.
In addition, the Fund has fully integrated with NIRA to enable the registration of members, and this has significantly reduced the amount of incoming suspense.
“The bulk of the suspense relates to historical periods. Once all efforts to clear suspense are exhausted, we will publish all pending suspense and have it moved to the reserve as per provisions of the NSSF Act (as amended),” Arimi concluded.