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Pyrethrum firm retirees demand Sh2.5 bn pension arrears

More than 300 former employees of the Pyrethrum Board of Kenya (PBK) have appealed to Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mr. Mithika Linturi to help them get their Sh2.5 billion pension dues.

The pensioners said they have not received their pensions for the past thirteen years.

Speaking in Nakuru, the pensioners’ spokesperson, Mr. Harun Tinga, urged the CS to address the issue, adding, “Most of us are in our sunset years and might die before we are paid our dues, while others are ailing and are unable to pay hospital bills.

The distraught pensioners are demanding the sale of 13 non-core assets spread across Nakuru City to settle their pending dues.

Last year, the successor to PBK, the Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya (PPCK) Board, announced that it had written to the National Treasury seeking permission to sell houses and land in prime areas of Nakuru City to clear the pensioners’ dues.

Mr. Tinga said the issue is now before Cabinet and urged Linturi to fast-track the implementation process.

“Pensioners want a proper valuation of the assets, which were undervalued by government valuers. Some houses in Nakuru City are worth Sh800 million, but the government valuers want them to be sold at about Sh300 million,” stated Mr. Tinga.

The Pyrethrum Board of Kenya Staff Superannuation Scheme was established in 1991 as a defined benefit scheme with each member contributing five per cent of their salaries while the employer contributed 15 per cent.

This money was to be invested over a period of time, and after the contributors attained the mandatory retirement age, they were supposed to be paid in a lump sum.

Pension regulations state that in case of retrenchment, the employee is supposed to enjoy full benefits, and in case of death, their families will claim the benefits.

However, the scheme started to experience financial difficulties in 2002 after their sponsors, the defunct Pyrethrum Board of Kenya, now PPCK, was rocked by years of mismanagement, corruption, and theft of public resources.

The workers filed a winding-up suit against the company at the High Court in Nairobi, which was granted in December 2016.

The then Attorney General, Githu Muigai, initiated the final process of winding up the debt-ridden pension scheme.

The scheme, once one of the best-run in the country in the 1980s, was finally put under receivership on May 27, 2017.

In his remarks, the chairperson of the scheme, Mr. Samuel Ainda, echoed Tinga’s remarks, saying that the majority of their members were living in dejection as they could not afford to cater even for the most basic needs.

“These pensioners have children to feed, hospital bills to pay, school fees, rent, food, and other overhead costs, but they have no money, and their families are suffering and have been reduced to beggars,” said Mr. Ainda.

He said that many of their colleagues were sick and bedridden as their pension arrears accumulated.

“Hundreds of pensioners are living in abject poverty. At least 60 out of 327 have died, and 20 are seriously ill and bedridden,” Mr. Ainda disclosed.

The chairperson added, “Hardly a month passes without hearing some bad news. If it’s not the death of one colleague, then it’s the hospitalization of another. It’s been more than a decade since we received our last payment.”

When pyrethrum farming flourished in the 1970s and 1980s, the Pyrethrum Board of Kenya (PBK) workers’ pension scheme was one of the richest in the country, with pensioners enjoying regular payouts.

In addition, the workers would get a hefty yearly bonus as PBK’s balance sheet contained billions of shillings’ worth of assets.

By Jane Ngugi and Dennis Rasto

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