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Key facts that Kazungu Kambi ignored in his commentary

By Francis Atwoli | February 4th 2014

By Francis Atwoli

Kenya: The Central Organisation of Trade Unions-Kenya (Cotu-K) welcomes comments by the Labour, Social Security and Services Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi particularly his closing remarks in an opinion published in The Standard Monday, in which he urged social partners to join him in straightening matters in the ministry and its departments, for the good of the workers and Kenya.

However, in his opening remarks, the Cabinet Secretary should have observed that it hurts when well thought out development projects meant to add value to the society are abruptly or recklessly hijacked by individuals who want to make money through fraudulent means at the expense of Kenyan workers.

Indeed it is absurd that individuals charged with safeguarding Kenyan workers’ pension funds have turned themselves into boardroom schemers hellbent on plotting to make cash out of projects that were discussed and closed many years back.

Their attempts to create loop-holes through which to siphon money from the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) shall be resisted by all Kenyans of good will by ensuring that the workers’ pension funds are managed prudently.

I have raised pertinent questions on the Tassia II Project, which has now been suspended by the Cabinet Secretary due to the facts and documents that we have tabled before the Government, and the issues at hand should not be mixed up with other sideshows to confuse the public.

We at Cotu remain focused on bringing the matter to its logical conclusion. You may recall that when NSSF lost about Sh256 million in the Euro Bank scandal under the former Managing Trustee, the late Mutweta, it is Cotu that raised the alarm and vigorously defended its stand, until the then Central Bank Governor, Mr Nahashon Nyagah, was forced to resign.

In 2008, the Government tried to impose a Mr Fred Rabongo as Managing Trustee of NSSF, but Cotu again opposed the appointment as unprocedural and it was revoked by the Government.

When the Nation Hospital Insurance Fund, (NHIF) wanted to raise the monthly contributions and set up a scheme to fleece Kenyan workers of their hard earned money through medical refunds using hospitals like Meridian and Clinix — which did not have the capacity to manage the scheme — Cotu was again at the forefront to stop the corrupt scheme. Today those involved are in court to answer the preferred charges against them. Cotu has therefore been consistent in the fight against corruption, and the records are there for those who care to confirm the same.

Cotu demands that the Cabinet Secretary gazette its nominee, Damaris Muhika, on the board of NSSF as soon as possible. The former representative Mr Cornelius N. Ogutu ceased being a member with effect from July 23 last year, having been implicated in the criminal case No: 890 of 2013 that is ongoing at the Magistrates Court in Milimani, Nairobi.

Cotu wrote to the Ministry of Labour Social Security and Services and informed them that he was no longer an employee of Cotu and did not represent its interests. Yet surprisingly, the Acting Managing Trustee invited him for a special board meeting on January 29 this year, which he attended.

The ministry, Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) and Cotu are tripartite partners who must consult to ensure smooth operations in the labour sector.  There is nothing wrong with employers and workers agreeing on issues of mutual interest or benefit, and therefore the cabinet secretary’s assertion that when Cotu (K) and FKE agree on issues regarding Tassia II Project, it is a marriage of convenience is incorrect.

In fact, the Ministry of Labour should not take sides, but play its role as the arbitrator between the two parties for harmonious industrial relations.

I wish to reiterate as the Secretary General of Cotu, on behalf of the workers of Kenya, and as their representative on the board of rrustees of NSSF, that my mandate is to ensure that I protect their interests in their pension fund at all times. This is the promise we gave to Kenyans.

 I therefore wish to ask the Cabinet Secretary Labour, Social Security and Services to abide by the spirit of his word that we join him in striving for the good of our workers and Kenya.

The writer is Secretary General of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions -Kenya (Cotu-K).

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