Thousands of retired teachers who have been waiting for a Sh42.3 billion salary and pension arrears award for 17 years got a relief on Thursday after the High Court ordered the Teachers Service Commission to immediately release the money.
Lady Justice Janet Mulwa directed TSC to liaise with the Treasury, the Controller of Budget, the Auditor-General, the director of pensions and other relevant offices to settle the debt.
Affirmation of the pay arrears compounds the situation for the Treasury, which is also faced by another budget hole following award of a hefty pay increase for the tutors earlier this month.
“There is no escaping paying these teachers who delivered their services to the government for several years,” said Justice Mulwa, adding that the respondents’ employment benefits have been trampled upon by the relevant government bodies since October 2008.
The Judge accused the commission of ‘feet-dragging’ in the matter despite a 2006 High Court judgement that ruled in favour of the retirees.
Justice Mulwa’s orders have left the TSC with a Sh56.3 billion budget hole following a Court of Appeal order last week compelling it to increase teachers’ pay by 50 to 60 per cent starting August 1.
The Appellate Court told the TSC to increase teachers’ pay until its appeal against Industrial Court judge Nduma Nderi’s judgment that awarded the tutors the rise is heard and determined.
Justice Nderi’s award was based on a working documents that the teachers’ employer had prepared on September 9, 2014 as the tutors prepared for a strike.
READ: Appeals court awards teachers 60pc pay raise
An uphill battle looms for the teachers’ employer as it fights to stop Justice Nderi’s award, which coupled with Justice Mulwa’s order could see it forced to source for Sh93 billion to square off active and retired teachers’ dues.
A S7 billion package for backdated payment from 2013 to this year was suspended by the Appellate Court pending the outcome of the suit, which returns before Justices Mohammed Warsame, Sankale ole Kantai and Jamila Mohammed on September 22.
Justice Mulwa on Thursday dismissed an application by TSC filed in March 2015, seeking a review of orders issued on April 2012 by the High Court directing the teachers’ employer to pay the arrears.
The court also declined to allow TSC more time to pay the amount, saying the retired teachers had been in endless court battles with TSC, which ought to end.
The former teachers sued the commission in 2006, claiming unpaid lump sum salary increments and accrued pension from July 1997.
The retirees won the case on October 23,before then Nakuru High Court Judge David Maraga who ruled that all retired teachers covered by the agreement dated October 11, 1997 between the TSC and the Kenya National Union of Teachers were entitled to their retirement benefits based on the entire salary increment.
Efforts by the TSC to challenge the award through the Court of Appeal were futile as a three judge bench reinstated the orders.
The retirees have been entangled in unending court battles with the commission since 2008 with the court deferring imposition of a six-month contempt of court jail term against former Teachers Service Commission secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni more than thrice.
READ: TSC suffers blow after court rejects Sh42bn pay appeal
Mr Lengoiboni had, however, on several occasions attached documents in court detailing communication between him and the Treasury where he had requested for an allocation of Sh14.7 billion to go towards paying the retirees’ salary arrears.
The retirees, who flocked the court on Thursday in the company of their lawyer Dominic Kimatta, praised the land mark judgement, saying justice had finally prevailed.
Mr Kimatta said he would serve the relevant government offices with the judgment by today for implementation.
Justice Mulwa’s ruling is set to pile more pressure on Education secretary Jacob Kaimenyi, who earlier this month survived an impeachment motion against him in Parliament following the teachers’ victory before Justice Nderi.
Over 52,000 retired teachers in January told the judge that several of their fellow petitioners had died while awaiting their dues.
Attorney- General Githu Muigai in January claimed that Sh16.7 billion had already been released to the retirees, but they disputed the claims.
The teachers’ wage bill, inclusive of allowances, currently stands at about Sh161.1 billion. The recent court awards are set to put the National Treasury in a tight spot as it struggles to raise funds to facilitate the payments.
The Court of Appeal last week told TSC that failure to honour the 50-60 per cent pay rise would automatically lead to dismissal of its appeal.
Currently, the 280,000 teachers account for 38 per cent of Kenya’s Sh418 billion public wage bill.
A 60 per cent pay increment means a teacher in P1 job group G, the lowest paid category, will take home Sh26,707 up from Sh16,692 beginning next month. The best paid teacher, a chief principal in job group R, will now earn Sh163,634, up from Sh109,089.