Pyrethrum pensioners demand Sh2.5 billion arrears

Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya (PPCK) pensioners, led by their chairman Samuel Ainda (centre) address the press in Nakuru on May 9, 2023, over their pending arrears. [Kennedy Gachuhi, Standard].

Pensioners of the Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya (PPCK) have appealed to Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi to intervene in the release of their Sh2.5 billion pension arrears.

The over 300 retirees worked for the company, formerly Pyrethrum Board of Kenya (PBK), but have never enjoyed their savings in old age.

Speaking to the press at the PPCK factory in Nakuru led by their spokesperson Harun Tinga, the retirees said they have not received a coin for the last 13 years.

"Most of us are in our sunset years yet the pension deducted from our pay when we were strong and healthy is still held up. We are struggling to survive,” said Mr Tinga.

He explained that the failure of the cash-strapped company to release their pension has left most of them suffering in their homes.

“With our advanced age, many of us are at risk of falling sick. When this happens, our families are unable to take us to hospitals for timely medical attention,” said Tinga.

The collapse of the pension scheme, which was once the best run in the country, has left the 327 members living in abject poverty. Some, now deceased, have left the next of kin with the burden of following up on their claims.

“The scheme had 327 members, and 80 have already died. Another 20 are seriously ill, with others bedridden. Is the government waiting until all of us die for them to pay?” posed their chairperson, Samuel Ainda.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi. [File, Standard]

The scheme began its downturn in 2002 when the PBK started experiencing financial challenges linked to mismanagement, corruption and theft of its resources.

The pensioners obtained a court order allowing them to wind up the scheme in December 2016, and it was put under receivership in May 2017.

To pay off their claims, the pensioners proposed that the government inject more money into the company or have its non-core assets spread in different counties sold.

“PPCK wrote to the National Treasury seeking permission to sell some of its houses and land to clear our dues. The matter has been pending before the Cabinet for too long now,” said Tinga.

He pointed out that they were in doubt with the valuation done on some of the assets they had proposed to be sold, saying that they had been grossly undervalued.

“We want a proper valuation of the assets which were undervalued by government valuers. Some houses within Nakuru City are worth up to Sh800 million but the valuers had set their value at Sh300 million,” said Tinga.

According to them, undervaluation of the assets would not only lead to loss of revenue by the government but also impede their payment process as more assets would have to be sold.

The Pyrethrum Board of Kenya Staff Superannuation Scheme was established in 1991.

Each member was contributing five per cent of his or her salary towards the scheme while PBK was matching the contribution.

The government is in the process of reviving the pyrethrum sector, which was once the country's highest foreign exchange earner through exports.