By Shem Kosse, Kisumu, Kenya
A major face off is looming large between employees of Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute (KEMFRI) and its top notch officials over rampant graft, neopotism, embezzlement of funds which continues to take its toll in the institution.
And the workers are now up in arms against their parent ministry Permanent Secretary professor Mutiba and Director Dr Kazungu Johnson for allegedly colluding with the KEMFRI board of directors to frustrate implementation of employees recommended pay hike, non payment of retirement benefits among other sleazes.
Talking on strict conditions of anonymity, the workers fraternity who have vowed to take to the street to demand for the removal of the PS and Director said the two have refused to award them salary reviews recently made by government for its civil servants on job groups A to L.
But instead, the director issued an internal circular to all staff claiming that the KEMFRI management submitted its request to treasury for supplementary budget of 45 million to pay salaries but no additional funds were remitted to any of the National Research Institutions by the ex-chequer. This is according to a signed document by Director dated 15th September sneaked to the press.
The letter was circulated to the employees after their recent bid to see the Minster both in kisumu and Mombasa to present their range of grievances-through KEMFRI management board chairperson Mrs Pennina Aloo- was thwarted by the embattled duo, thus giving credence to the alleged malpractices dogging the once vibrant outfit.
The unwillingness to honour the proposed salary increment was arrived at in Mombasa.This year’s presidential Labour Day salary increment is also yet to be implemented.
Retirees too, haven’t been spared by this cartel’s wrath. Those retired close to five years ago are yet to collect their belongings from their former working stations because of not only non payment of their pension dues but also transport to ferry their goods. The Retirement Benefit Scheme (RBS) is under full control of the director.
The agitated workers gave a perfect example of two hapless retirees Kepha Nyandera, Isaya Ndere who retired 6 months and one year ago and are still glued in kisumu’s sprawling estate of manyatta because they can ill afford fare to ferry their consignments.
Pensionable workers are entitled to monthly payments for a period of 10 years and majority of them succumb to death within three years of retirement as a result of extreme poverty.
Independent Investigations by this journalist reveals that the workers’ monthly contribution under pension scheme is trickling to three firms namely Alexander, Insurance Company of East Africa (ICEA) and KEMFRI staff pension scheme.
All the trio firms, further fall under the umbrella body PLUSPOINT firm which to workers appears to be a phantom outfit since it has never served satisfactorily the interest of majority of retirees who are now languishing in abject poverty courtesy of the current regime’s incompetence and inefficient management.
The workers are perplexed since they don’t know which among the said firms controls their hard-won money adding that they better entrust their contributions with the government’s recognized body, Kenya Revenue Benefits Authority (KRBA) board.
It’s worth noting that the KEMFRI’ retirement board which is headed by director is yet to hold its elections, three years down the road.
During the KEMFRI meeting in there headquarter, Mombasa , the director reportedly told the minister that much of the workers contributions are being channeled to their medical kitty. A move that has been brushed off by workers fraternity as a white wash.
The workers are pitiful lot. Their umbrella union of Kenya Marine Fisheries Union (KMFU) which is supposed to act as their mouth piece to fight for their rights is a toothless bulldog-the contract it signed with the Marine expired three years ago and with no sign of renewal on sight. And yet the secretary general continues to draw salary from employees.
A spot check to KEMFRI offices indicates that the workers morale has gone down-they report to and leave work late since the job security is neither here nor there. “If we were to sign performance contract as the government is pushing for it how will we perform?” marveled one of the disgruntled workers.
Further investigations reveal that the crippling institution is operating without a proper scheme of work. A worker who was employed as research officer in Nairobi was mysteriously elevated as the supplies officer, Kisumu, to the chagrin of workers,because he is related to current director.
“The Directorate Personnel Management circular is now in the offing and KEMFRI has never and will never adhere to it in grading workers” said the agitated workers.
Back to KEMFRI, the institution is also bedeviled with bureaucratic red tape. An employee has to get a letter of commitment from employer. Clear cut criteria for dispatching commuter allowances is also lacking- the chosen few are the ones who benefit, chiefly.
Also, the leave letters to the employees have to adopt a colonial approach to be furnished with one: a worker has to get a letter of clearance from their respective area chiefs; something that they said is supposed to be automatic.
Ironically, the institution is currently putting up a state-of-the-art laboratory building in Mombasa to the tune of staggering 85 million shillings flavoured with accommodation rooms and it claims it can’t effect the workers salary increment.
Additionally, it is also involved in Aquaculture, consultancy work and also working in collaboration with so many institutions such as Lake Victoria Environmental Management Programe (LVEMP), European Union (EU) among other vibrant projects which pumps millions of shillings to its coffers.
The workers who urged the minister to crack the whip to salvage situation, hailed the reign of the immediate former director Dr Okemwa and challenged the minister to pay an impromptu visit-more so to Kisumu-and witness no any research centre is working effectively.
The relentless efforts to reach the adversely mentioned officials proved futile since their cell phones went unanswered.