2014 parliamentary review:Pension Bill remains unfinished business

Debate on Pension Bill remained unfinished business as lawmakers broke off for the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Members of Chamber of Deputies during a past session.(Timothy Kisambira)
Members of Chamber of Deputies during a past session.(Timothy Kisambira)

Debate on Pension Bill remained unfinished business as lawmakers broke off for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Pension law revision was the last item on the agenda for the Senatorial Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Human Rights and Petitions, in 2014.

The amendment of the law governing the organisation of the pension scheme generated heated debate between pensioners, insurance companies, senators, among others with one of the most contentious provision the one that provides for pension remittances for house helps.

Thérèse Kagoyire Bishagara, the chairperson of the senatorial committee, said the pension bill will be among the first to be passed early in the New Year.

Felix Nzabahimana, the executive secretary of the Rwanda Association of Pensioners, wondered if housemaids should be incorporated in the law governing pension scheme as eligible pensioners yet many of them are less trusted and looked at as criminals.

“If the law says that every employee will be registered within seven days of employment, I wonder if housemaids should be covered under this law,” Nzabahimana said.

However, Rwanda Social Security Board’s Jean Paul Sekabuke said the draft law caters for all workers including housemaids.

“Not all housemaids are bad. Some spend many years in one home. It is appropriate for such people to be registered under the pension scheme as the law provides,” Sekabuke said.

Aloise Nsengiyumva, a legal expert at the Ministry of Finance, said housemaids cannot be left out of the pension scheme since they are governed under the law regulating labour in the country.

Under Article five of the draft law, persons mandatory to pension schemes, include, workers governed by the law regulating labour in Rwanda without any distinction whether working in public or private sector notwithstanding the nature, type or duration of the contract, remuneration and nationality.

Announcing the closure of the third quarter of the 2014 ordinary session, earlier this month, the Senate president, Bernard Makuza, said while a couple of bills had been passed, lawmakers had a lot of unfinished business, including public petitions, and other high-profile bills.

Among the bills passed include Mutuelle de Santé draft law and the one establishing Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB). They await presidential endorsement prior to publication in the Official Gazette

The laws were amended on grounds of transfer of Mutuelle de Santé to RSSB, as the Funds Manager.

The amendment, according to Daniel Ufitikirezi, the Director General of RSSB, sought to redeem the health insurance scheme from crumbling under subscriptions and debts.

An estimated 73 per cent of Rwandans subscribed to Mutuelle de Santé in the last fiscal year 2013/14, down from 80.7 per cent and 90.7 per cent in the financial years 2012/13 and 2011/12, respectively.

It is understood that errors and uncoordinated management, among other reasons, have characterised the health insurance scheme over the past few years.

That aside, MP Zeno Mutimura said that Parliament has passed a many laws since 1994.

“In 1994, we inherited a legislation system that had a legal framework vacuum, so we started afresh. The laws we inherited were distorted or at worst distractive,” Mutimura, the chairperson of the Lower House’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security, said.

A total of 60 draft laws were adopted for amendment in the current third Parliament which commenced business in October 2013.

Among them, 58 were passed by the Chamber of Deputies and forwarded to either the Upper House or respective stakeholders for further scrutiny.

Forty one of the total bills have already been published in the Official Gazette.

The legislation also included the ratification of the national budget (2015/14) framework papers and regional peace and security pacts, among others.

“If I take you back to where it all begun; after the transitional period (1994-2003), we passed 275 bills, in the following legislature year we passed about 330 bills, though the number has overtime reduced in the subsequent legislation terms,” Mutimura said.

He explained that Parliament had passed many draft laws due to the country’s political history.

“However, the total number of laws passed has gone down with time because the system is stabilising,” he noted.

Mutimura said the 2014 Parliamentary highlight was the increasing number of foreign visitors, envoys and legislators.

“We don’t take this for granted, the world is becoming aware of the transformation that is ongoing in Rwanda,” he said.

Mutimura said Parliament would continue improving the existing laws, as well as fighting to end genocide ideology, among others.

New mechanisms

Even when a number of laws have been passed in the recent past, it is understood that not all are operational due to delays in publishing associated Ministerial Orders.

A case in point is the law establishing medical professional insurance, which was passed and published in the Official Gazette two years ago, but has since remained dormant.

The legislation seeks to ensure that health workers, as well as patients, are insured against any health risk likely to be suffered while in hospital and that if this happened, those affected would be compensated.

To end these delays, Speaker Donatile Mukabalisa, said no bills would be presented to Parliament without ministerial orders so as to help fast-track the enforcement of laws.

“We presented this case to the Prime Minister’s office, which gave a timeline of three months to ensure that Orders would be published ahead of the publication of the law in the Official Gazette,” Mukabalisa said.

Most dramatic day in 2014

The most notable Parliamentary moment of the year would be September 17, when Dr Jean Damascène Ntawukuliryayo stepped down as Senate president, after 15 members of the Upper House signed a petition calling for an extra ordinary session to deliberate on his leadership style and conduct.

Senators accused Ntawukuliryayo of abuse of office, undermining senatorial rules and procedures, which consequently affected the effectiveness of top senatorial organs and the Upper House in general.

This would later be followed by the election of Bernard Makuza as the Senate president.
Fatou Harerimana was also elected as Senate vice-president in charge of Legislation and Government Oversight, replacing Mukuza.

Some laws require amendment

There are a number of existing laws, which key players think should be amended to either fit the current situation, strengthen penalties of the culprits or close the existing legal gaps.

Among them, include the Organic Law terminating the Gacaca Courts, legislation prohibiting drug abuse and one on human trafficking.

Jean de Dieu Mucyo, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), told legislators, last month, that the existing law, which was enacted in 2012, has a number of loopholes, especially regarding retrials of Gacaca cases.

The current third legislature will end in 2018.

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