Thank God, we have lived to witness the progressive court decision! A group of pensioners would breathe a sigh of relief, albeit with a feeling of ambivalence after years of waiting.
At least one hundred of the 629 pensioners had already passed on, when the court pronounced itself, with the wheels of justice grinding slowly twenty-three years after they sought answers over alleged underpayment of their pensions.
It was solace and delight after the high court dismissed the case filed by the Standard Chartered bank challenging the decision of the Retirement Benefits Tribunal that ordered the bank to pay the pensioners 30 billion shillings in compensation.
In proceedings at the High Court’s Judicial Review Division, whose determination was made last week with the pensioners awarded 30 billion shillings, the bank argued that the beneficiaries had presented no evidence to warrant award of the claims. This despite the pensioners submitting that the bank withdrew 1.536 billion shillings in December 1997 which was paid back to the bank, an amount they claimed was part of their pension and whose valuation had accumulated to about 24 billion shillings. They maintained the bank never responded to their proposal to have the matter settled out of court even after approaching it three times.
Dismissing the case with costs, Justice John Chigiti said the best that the justice system could do for the pensioners was to ensure they enjoy access to their pension and retirement benefits without having to spend years in courts pursuing their rights.
“The 629 interested parties must have retired with the hope that they would access their retirement packages when they left the bank. They had a legitimate expectation they would get their pension then. This was not to be. The first respondents’ decision brought their dreams closer home when the tribunal issued the structural interdicts which accords with the social transformation through access to justice vison, and this court has a duty to promote the vision.” Justice Chiguti said in part of his ruling.
“It is this court’s findings that the applicants have not satisfied this court that the decision of the 1st respondent was materially influenced by an error and this court finds no reason to review the administrative action as provided for under Section 7(2) of the Fair Administration Action Act,” added the judge.
The bank had argued that the pensioners were fully paid under the trust of deed saying correct actuarial factors were used in the computation of their pay and that the pensioners had their services terminated and as such were not eligible to pension save for those who could have suffered incapacity and ill health.
The mater was first lodged at the Employment and Labour Court. Justice Onesmus Makau would then refer the matter to the Retirement Benefits Authority to determine it on the merits of the Retirement Benefits Act. RBA would dismiss the case.
“We would then appeal the decision at the Retirement Benefits Tribunal. The tribunal gave us a fair judgement and the court ordered the bank to work out the calculations afresh and comply with the orders within 60 days, but the bank decided to seek a judicial review.” Said the pensioners.
In its ruling, the tribunal was of the view that the pensioners had made a clear case arguing that the bank used incorrect actuarial factors in computing the cash values for both the deferred pensioners and the commuted values for immediate pensioners. It also found that the first respondent(RBA) was wrong in finding that the factors published by the pensioners were not applicable.
For the pensioners, it was bitter sweet experience following years of anguish and now want the bank to honour the payments. According to the group, those people whose pension was underpaid have suffered immensely.
“These people never educated their children to the levels they would have expected for lack of money, their houses were auctioned by banks for lack of payments while the bank still had their money withheld.” The say.
At least 100 people among those who had lodged the case have already died in the course of the court process with their deaths attributed to lack of medication while those whose houses were auctioned are living in deplorable conditions in some of the city’s slums including Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Mathare and Kibera.