For more than 10 years, Zachary Andare Okumu endured a life of untold misery and suffering despite a check for several hundred thousand shillings in his name.
The former Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC) worker, 69, struggles to survive years after retirement, without shelter, food and a broken family.
The check, which represents the payment of his retirement benefits for his 33 years of service, is the source of his sorrows and tribulations.
Mr. Okumu has lost his wife, his dreams for his family and now almost gives up his life. When he retired from KCC’s Eldoret branch in 2007, Mr. Okumu had big plans for his old age.
His immediate goal was to move to his rural home in Sigomere in Ugunja sub-county, Siaya county. His other plan was to file a lawsuit in court for the subdivision of his father’s land to be shared among his siblings.
He was planning to build his retirement home on his land.
Then he would take his two children to college and, finally, start a dairy business to help support his family.
Ruined pension plans
“I had planned to buy several dairy cows once the house was built. I had planned to devote myself full time to farming, ”says Okumu.
However, a decision by the company to withhold funds ruined all of his plans, turning his entire life upside down.
His retirement benefits, according to a letter from the Retirement Benefits Authority, amounted to 143,462 shillings in 2007, after his 33 years of contribution to the KCC junior staff pension scheme.
The company had, however, calculated the amount as Sh68,000, prompting it to file a complaint with the RBA.
After a thorough assessment, the RBA in its communication to the company dated October 24, 2008 found that the pension plan trustees had erred in calculating Mr. Okumu’s benefits.
However, the trustees challenged the decision in the Pension Benefits Appeal Tribunal, which upheld the RBA’s decision.
“We consider that the new pension scheme for KCC junior staff is required to pay the applicant the [money] accumulated in the KCC [Unionisable] The staff pension plan would have been paid to KCC Limited “, part of the court ruling reads.
The tragic death of his wife
Following the court ruling, Mr. Okumu says the company called him on May 5, 2010, asking him to come and collect his check, which had the correct amount.
“I received the check that I deposited at the K-Rep bank in Nairobi before returning home. I explained to my wife what had happened and she was very happy. We have started to prepare for the implementation of our plans, ”explains Mr. Okumu.
Three days later, he traveled to Eldoretto to withdraw some of the money, but was shocked after being told that the check had been blocked by the company.
“I was so confused. I didn’t know what to do. I went home,” Mr. Okumu said.
When he returned home with an anxious wife, who was expecting good news from her husband, what she heard was too much for her to bear.
“After I told her what had happened, she couldn’t believe it. There she collapsed and died of shock,” he said.
After the funeral, Mr. Okumu returned to the company to report what had happened to his family and the only thing the company did was provide him with a truck to transport his property from Eldoret to Siaya.
Live like a poor man
“They told me that they had blocked the check because I had gone to announce that I had received my retirement allowance. I went back to the RBA who gave me the court judgment, advising me to leave it. ‘use when following up on the case,’ he says.
When he returned to the business, Mr. Okumu said he was told to wait while they settled the case.
Days turned into weeks which turned into months and later into years. It had been five years since he had been there for the last time. In 2015, during his visit to the office, he was brutally fired.
Meanwhile, her children’s education was cut short, two of them failed to enter college while the other seven dropped out of high school.
The little savings he had was spent on legal fees and buses for the many trips he made to and from Nairobi.
Now stuck in Sigomere, Mr. Okumu lives in an old thatched house he built when he was still a young man.
He kept the check safe in the hope that one day he will pay. But, for the moment, he lives like a poor man with no way of following the affair.
“I cannot believe the life I lead now, knowing full well that I have contributed religiously for my retirement for over 30 years. Let the company pay me my money. It is mine by right,” says Mr. Okumu.