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Knut wars linked to Sh1.6bn monthly funds

Saturday September 7 2019

Wilson Sossion

Kenya National Union of Teachers acting Secretary-General Hesbon Otieno addressing the press on August 30, 2019 in Nairobi concerning their welfare. According to Knut records by May this year, the union had 187,424 members. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

DAVID MUCHUNGUH
By DAVID MUCHUNGUH
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The fight for control of the Sh1.6 billion that tutors contribute annually to the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) is at the centre of the ongoing battle for supremacy among top officials, we can now reveal.

According to Knut records by May this year, the union had 187,424 members, each contributing two per cent of their monthly basic salary to the union.

It is not only subscribed members who pay dues to Knut. Non-unionised teachers who are beneficiaries of financial deals negotiated by Knut are charged a monthly commission from their earnings.

There were 126,493 teachers who did not owe allegiance to the trade union in May.

Inexplicably, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has since June refused to deduct the money from teachers’ salaries and hand it over to Knut in accordance with their recognition agreement.

SIGNATORIES

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The distracted union officials are now fighting each other, with less heat targeted at the TSC, while operations in Knut’s 110 branches have ground to a halt.

This has seen unhappy teachers leave the union in their thousands after missing out on a pay rise granted to non-Knut teachers.

The union has sued to have the TSC forced to hand over the dues. So dire is the situation that union officials have even pleaded to be advanced some of the funds as they wait for dues probably at the end of this month, sources said.

It did not escape notice that as soon as the National Executive Council (NEC) resolved to replace secretary-general Wilson Sossion, it made a dash to change signatories of the union’s bank accounts.

The Employment and Labour Relations Court has since reinstated Mr Sossion. The NEC members, led by Knut deputy secretary-general Hesbon Otieno, were ordered to revert to the old signatories.

According to the most recent Knut financial report (for the year ended December 31, 2016), the teachers contributed Sh1,027,044,665, which was a drop from Sh1,219,132,796 the previous year.

EXPENSES

The amount earned in 2018 will be revealed in December during the annual delegates conference (ADC). The projected collection was Sh1.62 billion. Many middle-level companies in Kenya struggle to make such a turnover.

The money is usually shared out between the headquarters and its 110 branches. The head office retains 38.75 per cent of the amount and sends 61.25 per cent to branches. The money is used to run offices and pay salaries.

According to the report, the branches received Sh526,711,459, which is prorated according to the membership.

Branch executive secretaries run their own programmes such as the burial and education funds. They also pay allowances to other branch officials.

Apart from their hefty perks, compared with other teachers, union officials are said to also advance themselves interest-free loans.

According to the annual report, Knut spent Sh218.7 million on salaries. Additionally, members of the NEC earned Sh15.5 million in allowances.

TRIPS

The union also incurred other running costs of Sh39.4 million (union elections), Sh30.3 million (PAYE principal, penalties and interest).

Top Knut officials also spent Sh60 million on subsistence and travelling, and an additional Sh12 million on overseas activities.

The amount earned by each official is not indicated, but Mr Sossion, for example, made eight trips abroad last year; national chairman Wycliffe Omucheyi travelled abroad five times; while national treasurer John Matiang’i was out of the country three times, according to the 2018 annual report.

Other officials also travelled to different cities for various events, raising the tally to 23 trips.

The Knut spent Sh17.3 million on hospitality and social functions, Sh16.7 million on the ADC and Sh15 million on other committees of the union.

The Knut development services took Sh13.5, with training, seminars and workshops consuming Sh14.4 million.

Top union officials who spoke to the Saturday Nation denied that the infighting has a financial angle to it, although they were cagey on how much they earn.

INVESTMENTS

The branches have their own scheme of service through which they remunerate workers.

The union does not rely solely on the funds it receives from teachers; it also has investments across the country that earn it extra revenue.

Knut House in Nairobi, which houses its headquarters, earned Sh17.5 million from tenants.

Branches also have investments managed at the local level. A number of branches own buildings from which they collect rent and buses that they hire out for use by the public.

Unlike saccos that give members dividend, Knut members earn nothing from the investments built using their money.

Legal fees consume a huge chunk of Knut’s revenue. Law firms made Sh105 million from the union, which has in recent years been in and out of courtrooms.