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Counties staff seek to stop governors' tower

By Paul Ogemba | January 22nd 2021 at 02:00:00 GMT +0300

Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta, and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya during the ground-breaking ceremony for the G47 Ugatuzi Tower, in Kilimani, Nairobi on December 4, 2020. [DPPS]

County government employees are seeking to stop the construction of a multi-billion shilling building in Nairobi intended to be the headquarters of the Council of Governors (CoG).

The Kenya County Government Workers Union is claiming ownership of the land on Chaka Road in Hurlingham, Nairobi where the 50-storey G47 Ugatuzi Towers is being constructed. They argue that they did not authorise the CoG to use it to put up the skyscraper.

Through lawyer Githumi Gachaga, the union claims the employees were not consulted before the land acquired through their pension was taken over by the governors.

The property is registered under the County Pension Fund and managed by the Board of Trustees of Local Authority Pension Trust.

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“They are undertaking the construction in total violation of the county workers’ right to own property. The project as designed will not benefit the workers yet it is their pension funds that are being used to finance it,” Gachaga said.

The Sh5 billion G47 Ugatuzi Towers was commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta on December 4 last year.

According to Wycliffe Oparanya, the CoG chair, financing of the project would be drawn from the county government budgets over the next three financial years, supplemented by resources from development partners.

When the project was launched, Oparanya said the building would serve as devolution headquarters and would host the CoG offices, county satellite offices, county assemblies’ forum offices, and the Ministry of Devolution and related State agencies.

But the workers union argues that the Board of Trustees of Local Authority Pension Trust (LAPTRUST) and the County Pension Fund illegally allowed the land to be used and entered the partnership for their pensions to partly finance the construction without being consulted.

According to the union, the workers’ pensions are being invested to benefit the employers yet some of them are struggling to remit money to the pension scheme due to failure by the county governments to pay their salaries.

“The G47 Ugatuzi towers will be constructed in a LAPTRUST plot which forms part of its prime properties and cannot be used for the benefit of the employers,” Gachaga said.

He submitted that the county government workers’ pension should be invested for the benefit of the workers and separated from the employers and that by taking over the workers’ land, the CoG violated the principles of distinct and separate investments between employers and employees.

The union claimed that the content of the agreement between the trustees managing their pension and the governors still remains a mystery since they were not consulted or made aware of the plans to construct the building until they saw President Kenyatta launching it in December last year.

They added that they are not aware of the total amount from their pension which is going to be used to partly finance the construction.

“The workers are apprehensive that their pension is being mismanaged due to the secrecy by which the agreement was reached.

"They were never consulted and in case the project fails, it is the members’ pension that will be lost,” he said and added that the amount of contributions not remitted to the pension scheme by the county governments is currently running into billions of shillings.

Gachaga also argued that the Sh5 billion budgeted for the construction of the building is a big portion of the workers’ pension and yet they are not benefiting in any way. 


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