NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 17 – The Council of Governors has threatened to move to court to challenge the County Retirement Scheme Bill 2014 proposed by Senate Majority leader Kithure Kindiki if the Senate passes it in its current form.
Council of Governors Chairman Peter Munya says the Bill, which allows the Treasury to manage the County Pension Funds was unconstitutional as it was handing over county government assets to the National Government yet they were two distinct levels of administration.
“It was agreed that the Local Authorities Pension Trust (LAPTRUST) be restructured to be the pension scheme for county workers and we would propose legislation to the Senate to do that restructuring but if what is before the Senate goes through we have no option but to challenge it in court,” said Munya.
Counties have been lobbying to have their own pension scheme to secure their workers after retirement and were irked by the re-introduction of the County Retirement Scheme Bill 2014 without the input of the Technical Working Committee which had proposed a raft of amendments.
“We cannot have a pension scheme for workers on one level of government being managed by another level of government,” asserted Munya.
Kindiki two months ago bowed to pressure to withdraw the law after uproar by Governors who insisted on giving their input.
Munya insisted that since the deductions were from the county workers, it was not right for the National Treasury to manage the monies further urging the Senate to consult with the County Public Service Board and incorporate their views.
“There is a contribution from the employer so for the national government to manage pension for county staff is unacceptable,” posed the COG chairman.
Munya was speaking during a stakeholder’s forum on the controversy surrounding the pension of county workers organized by the Senate committee on Labour and Social welfare.
Speaker of the Senate Ekwee Ethuro noted the Governors concerns saying the Senate was seeking a consensus over the pending issues and was in no way imposing the proposals on the counties.
“We realized we do not have a monopoly of ideas and issues, so I don’t want you to think you are here to ‘rubber-stamp’ our proposals, we are here to give you our findings so that you can give us your views,” said Ethuro.
Ethuro urged governors to be cognizant of the challenges they face while fighting for them this seemingly alluding to the Sh1 billion oversight monies which the Senate lost in their quest for allocation of more funds to counties.
“As Senators, we are the guardian angels of devolution,” said Ethuro.
Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo who chairs the Senate Labour and Social Welfare committee said the matter needed urgent redress as workers who were retiring this year were at risk of losing their benefits owing to the confusion over remittance.
“The issue of the county pension scheme has become highly politicised and there is a need for objective consideration of this matter. This matter needs due consideration so as to come up with a sustainable scheme,” he said.
Kisii Governor James Ongwae noted that external factors were hindering a sober debate on the proposed law calling on stakeholders not to play politics with it.
“We need to agree on the best way forward so that we don’t get into a ping pong game and people rushing to courts. We do not want this issue stampeded using the Senate,” said Ongwae.
Governors will also be calling for the restructuring of the boards of National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) to include the representation of county workers as they also contribute to the schemes.
COG also noted that the confusion over the schemes had resulted in some counties failing to remit workers money to schemes they are subscribed to.
Acting Labour Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo was represented by NSSF Acting CEO/Managing Trustee Anthony Omerikwa who reiterated the government’s commitment to protecting the rights of Kenyans.