Why you will pay British pensioners for 30 years

1964: A staff officer at Police Colony headquarters, JD Standring, says goodbye to chief inspector before leaving for Britain. (File)
Kenya is still forking out about Sh2 million every month to pay 1,500 pensioners in Britain for the services they rendered to the colonial government, almost six decades after independence.

At the same time, the government will from the end of this month pay all the 277,000 public servants a three per cent increment in their monthly pensions.  

According to the Director of Pensions, Shem Nyakutu, this will push the pension bill by Sh3 billion, meaning the total amount of annual pay out will shoot to Sh104 billion for the 2019/20 financial year. 

This, he said, was in line with government policy which increases the monthly pension for its retired workers by a similar margin, after every two years.

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Nyakutu said the country will continue remitting pensions to former colonial public servants for the next 30 years, going by the average age of the surviving pensioners.

“Although we have some colonial pensioners who are more than 100 years old, a number of the youngest pensioners are in their 60s, meaning there is a likelihood of them drawing salaries for the next 30 years,” he said.

This means that the youngest pensioner, who is currently aged 63, will continue getting remittances from Nairobi up to the year 2050. The oldest of these Britain-based pensioners is a granny aged 106 years. We have established that she is currently drawing a monthly pension of £300 (Sh38,542) from Nairobi.  

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According Nyakutu, the money is sent to the pensioners in Britain where it is processed through the Crown Agent Bank and then passed over to the beneficiaries.

This arrangement was made between the governments of Kenya, Britain and Northern Ireland and solidified by The Public Officers Pensions (Kenya and United Kingdom Agreement Act, 1977).

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It is supposed to cover colonial teachers, police officers, soldiers who served Kenya between 1921 and 1970s when the country retrenched most expatriates under the Africanisation programme.  

This Act came into being on October 27, 1977 and was signed by the then Finance Minister Mwai Kibaki, who would later become Kenya’s third president. It reads in part: “an agreement, entitled the Public Officers’ Pensions (Kenya) Agreement (hereinafter referred to as “the Agreement”) was entered into between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of Kenya concerning certain public officers’ pensions”.

The amount of money paid out to the pensioners in Britain has been decreasing corresponding with the demise of the recipients. “Every year, each pensioner covered by this Act has to sign and submit a certificate as proof that they are still alive. In the event a pensioner dies, London has to send a death certificate to Nairobi,” Nyakuti said.

In the event of a death of a pensioner and on receiving the death certificate, the director said, the name is then struck off the payroll.

At the height of the remittance between 2003 and 2009, Kenya paid over Sh450 million to 442 British colonial pensioners, at an average of Sh75 million per year or Sh6.25 million per month.

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The highest remittance was in 2006/2007 when Sh81.5 million was used, although it dropped by a small margin to Sh79.4 million in the 2007/2008 financial year.

The colonial pensioners are not the only foreigners Kenya has been paying as retired public servants who were attached to the defunct East African Commission are still drawing money from Nairobi.

“We have former railway and harbour workers, judicial officers as well as retired telecommunication staff from Uganda, Tanzania and Zanzibar who still get pension from Nairobi,”  Nyakutu said.

EAC was established in 1967 to bring together the three East African neighbours, but it collapsed  in 1977 following sibling rivalry and irreconcilable political differences. 

Scores of teachers who fled Uganda during the tumultuous 1980s when the country was embroiled in civil war, are also some of the foreigners who receive monthly pensions. 

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The teachers, the director said, had fled their country in search of safety and jobs and were ultimately employed by Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and worked until they attained retirement age.

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