Suspended officials raise alarm over Sh23m withdrawal at Dock Workers Union account

Dock workers union Secretary General, Simon Sang [left] during Union special meeting at Bandari College in Mombasa (Photo Omondi Onyango/Standard)
MOMBASA, KENYA: A fresh battle has erupted at the giant Dock Workers Union (DWU) following claims more than Sh22.5 million was withdrawn irregularly between August last year and January this year.

Officials led by national chairman Mohamed Sheria have claimed that Sh22,531,175.80 was withdrawn despite a court order stopping the general secretary Simon Sang from doing so until a case was heard and determined.

The officials who were recently suspended by Mr Sang over alleged ‘misconduct and incompetence’ have written to the bank holding the union account demanding an explanation following the withdrawals.

The letter signed by lawyer John Magiya for Mr Sheria’s group, referred to orders given by the Employment and Labour Relations court on August 16 last year.

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“We note that at no point were the said orders complied with based on the amount withdrawn as shown above which is more than the ordered amount. We now demand an explanation on how the huge sum of money was withdrawn, by who and on whose authority it was done in total disobedience or contempt of the orders issued by the honourable court,” said the letter to the bank manager.

It was copied to Mr Sang and the Employment and Labour Relations Court.  The officials to take legal action within seven days unless the money was reimbursed into the union account.

Mr Sang however dismissed the letter dated February 21 this year claiming the officials were raising a false alarm as ‘no penny was lost’ from the union account.

“We followed procedure to the letter in making the withdrawal and spending in the interest of the workers. It is not possible to irregularly withdraw money from the union account. No cent was lost,” Sang said.

He termed the latest demands continued witch-hunt and a conspiracy to frustrate the running of the union in order to deliver to its members.

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“This is the only union in Kenya with airtight accounting procedures to safeguard the interests of members. This new claim is a witch-hunt and a conspiracy to frustrate our operations,” Sang protested.

He maintained that the union was a ‘service entity’ and like other unions it was supposed to spend 100 percent of its funds to facilitate programmes that support members.

He explained that the union was currently negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and it has to put the ‘workers at heart’ and ensure adequate facilitation.

It is claimed in the letter that in August last year Sh3,752,903.70 was withdrawn from the union account while another Sh2,624,487.50 in September.

The Sheria group alleges Sh4,820,753.95 was withdrawn in October,  Sh5,295,807.35 in November and Sh3,063,003.30 in December last year and Sh2,974,220 in January this year.

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National treasurer Joseph Makero said those who withdrew the union money will have to account for ‘every penny.’

“The funds were withdrawn despite a court order and those responsible must be held to account,” he said on Monday.

Mr Sheria, Mr Makero and vice chairman Mr Gunda Kaneno have been at loggerheads with Mr Sang after they were suspended from the union.

The officials however announced they had reconciled in order to facilitate the CBA negotiation with the employer Kenya Ports Authority.

The talks are expected to be concluded in a session slated for March 15 and 16 this year.

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Dock Workers UnionEmployment and Labour Relations Court