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Angry pensioners storm out of RBA meeting

Angry TelPosta pensioners on Monday walked out of a sensitization meeting convened by the Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA) to protest over delayed remittance of their dues.

The meeting which brought together retirees from various pensions schemes was meant to sensitize them on the new policies developed by the authority before they are forwarded to the National Treasury for consideration in the 2021/2022 financial year budget.

The over two hundred retirees who were retrenched between 1994-2007 accused the TelPosta pension scheme of withholding their dues thus subjecting them to untold suffering.

Pamela Okowa who represents the pensioners in the Nyanza region said since 2006, over 600 members have died while following up on the payment.

This, she said was due to pressure, depression and frustrations from the scheme’s management which was holding onto over Sh. 7.2 billion pensioners’ money.

The retirees, she said were unable to meet their financial obligations with a good number of them going without food, clothing and medication.

“Some of us were underpaid when we were retrenched. Others have received only 30 per cent of the dues while some have never received anything at all,” she lamented.

Okowa accused the management of the scheme of using the courts to frustrate them with endless injunctions.

She claimed that in 2007, the RBA successfully arbitrated over the issue and confirmed that the retirees were underpaid and proposed a review of the same.

The scheme, she added, received Sh. 7.2 billion from the World Bank (WB) in 2006 to clear their dues.

“It is unfortunate that instead of remitting the money to beneficiaries, the scheme management has resorted to hiring expensive lawyers to frustrate us with endless court battles,” she said.

She asked the National Treasury to intervene and ensure that the pensioners get their dues.

Morris Obimbo, retrenched in 1994 said majority of the pensioners were struggling to meet their medical expenses yet the scheme was reluctant to remit their dues.

“Amongst us, there are those who receive only Sh. 2000 as pension every month after working for the government for many years,” he noted.

Obimbo said it was unfair for the government to sit back and watch as Kenyans who served the public diligently for many years continue to wallow in poverty.

Paul Otera who was retrenched in 2006 said the scheme was colluding with lawyers to defraud them of their hard earned benefits and appealed to president Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene.

RBA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Nzomo Mutuku who attended the meeting said the matter was in the court of appeal adding that as a regulator they abide by the rule of law and will wait for the outcome of the case.

“The issue was arbitrated by us and concluded. It was a valid case but one of the parties appealed our verdict in court and the appeal is pending,’ ’he said.

He urged the parties to consider an out of court settlement arguing that the long drawn court battles only works against the already suffering retirees.

Mutuku disclosed that RBA has come up with different policies to streamline operations in the sector and increase coverage which is currently at 22 per cent.

Amongst the new proposals being floated by the authority, he said, include making the regulations flexible to tap into the informal sector which is currently left out in the pensions bracket.

The RBA, he added, was focusing on leveraging technology to allow workers in the informal sector to make contributions using mobile platforms as they save for their retirement.

So far, he said four pensions schemes have been given the greenlight to enlist workers in the informal sector as the authority continues to create awareness on the need to save for retirement.

The authority, he added, has amended regulations to allow use of pension funds to purchase houses for members.

The informal sector which carries the bulk of workers in the country, he said stands to benefit from the proposals since they will have a platform to make contributions as when and if they have the money unlike the salaried workers who do so monthly.

The authority, he added, has so far engaged workers in Nairobi, Mombasa, Machakos, Nakuru and Eldoret adding that the public participation shall be taken to all counties before the policies are presented to the National Treasury for consideration.

By Chris Mahandara

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