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We’re, Yes! paying dead British colonial civil servants

OPINION
By Peter Kimani | July 23rd 2021
Kenyan currency [Courtesy]

We know about the travails of the Kenyan pensioner.

Many go to the grave without getting a taste of their hard-earned pensions. All too often, we blame government bureaucracy and corruption. Most Kenyans conclude that the “system” isn’t working.

Well, the converse is also true: the “system” has been working so efficiently, we’ve been paying pensions for potentially dead British workers. This week, the Auditor General reported that some Sh150 million was paid in the last financial year to Asian and European civil servants who retired in or before 1963, while a further Sh112 million was paid to their dependents.

Parliament is now seeking evidence that the said retirees are still alive, as “life certificates” were not on file. An audit conducted 10 years ago reportedly confirmed only one pensioner. The monies, in Sterling pounds, is wired through a leading British “development” bank.

The said monies apparently account for only 25 per cent. The rest is paid by the British government, so one can safely say these pensioners, whether dead or living, receive very good care.

Unsurprisingly, if all the said workers retired at the mandatory age of 55, then all the pensioners or their spouses would average 110 years, give or take a year or two! Or three…

We can draw a few lessons from these centennials, the most immediate being that they lived at a time when the system “worked.” I am very deliberate in the deployment of the word, for those were the days when work, residence and suffrage was assigned according to race.

And in that hierarchy, British and Indian workers were privileged—while blacks were denigrated, in their own land. The former two groups could choose if they wanted to return to the motherland upon completion of their overseas deployment. Indians were categorised as “crown agents.”

Indigenous Kenyans were not allowed a free pass, although, to be fair to the Brits, for a few decades, they were free to visit without a visa, as long as they could prove they were not going to be vagabonds and had valid invites from British hosts.

All colonialists who arrived on our shores were vagabonds, of course, and had neither the means to support themselves, nor invites from any locals. One of their forebears, Captain Lugard, concocted treaties, in English, offering to provide local chiefs with “protection against hostile tribes”. But Lugard had only a string of local men and porters offering his own security!

That’s history, as we know it, and it spawned generations of civil servants, whose pension we continue to pay to this day.

This revelation makes a lot of sense. Many Kenyan workers who retired decades ago are still chasing their pensions. Now we know it is not because the “system” doesn’t work; it simply doesn’t work in their favour.

For if we pay pension for the dead, there is pretty little left to pay the living pensioners, given the avarice manifest at State institutions. A few monumental scams have been orchestrated there by top civil servants who, we can safely predict, died inside a long time ago.

 

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