By David Mugabe
FORTY five firms have been licensed to operate as retirement benefits schemes by the regulator as of yesterday.
Moses Bekabye, the acting chief executive of the regulator Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority (URBRA), said the regulator is in the process of procuring a firm to undertake a survey that will determine how many retirement savings schemes exist in total.
“We do not know how many retirement schemes exist but we know they are many. The survey will show what resources they have and where they have invested,” said Bekabye, urging private schemes that have not submitted their applications to do so.
Among the 42 licensed schemes is the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), which is the only mandatory scheme in the country. NSSF will also compete with all the other firms for workers’ contributions once the liberalisation law is passed.
Other firms include URA, BAT, Barclays Bank, Watoto Church Ministries, Mbarara University staff, Uganda Breweries, Stanbic Bank and MTN Uganda. URBRA has also licensed other firms, mostly insurance companies as administrators, and seven fund managers, four custodians and three corporate trustees.
The approval of application for several other firms, including Crane Bank (custodian) and BAT (individual trustees) are pending additional information.
The regulator has asked the schemes and service providers, whose applications are pending, to contact them for additional information.
Bekabye said the reporting requirements for each of the schemes are different and are embedded in the URBRA act with which all the schemes are expected to comply.
Uganda’s pensions sector is undergoing reform. A new law, the Uganda Retirements Liberalisation Bill is currently in Parliament. The Bill seeks to impact major changes in the administration of pensions, among them reducing the age at which savers can access their money from 55 to 45.
The amended bill presented in late 2013 also speaks of retaining over 60% of savings to be invested to generate lifetime monthly income.
The other is scrapping taxes on benefits and the possibility of savers transferring savings from scheme to scheme.
Workers contributing to the NSSF mandatory scheme are about 500,000, while the reforms are targeted at bringing close to 12 million working Ugandans on board, including those in the informal sector.
Analysts view a liberalised pensions sector as one that holds a lot of promise for the country. This is because the large cash held by NSSF and the yet to be tapped from unregistered schemes provide a huge opportunity for investments.