By Steve Umidha
The county workers’ union has lost a legal battle against the board of trustees of the Local Authority Pension Trust (LapTrust) and County Pension Fund over the construction of Ugatuzi Towers, a project spearheaded by the Council of Governors.
Kenya County Government Workers Union (KCGWU) had in January this year moved to court to block the development of the Sh5 billion G47 Ugatuzi tower launched last December, citing among other ills, the violation of rights of its members.
The union and its general secretary Roba Duba in a High Court application in which the latter is listed as second petitioner argued that the plan was not subjected to public participation and one that would expose pension members.
“Public interest favour conserving the pension of workers from wastage and investment that contravenes the constitution. It will be against the public interest if retirees cannot access their pension due to the illegal investments arising from Ugatuzi Towers,” Mr Duba said in January 2021 in his submissions to the court.
But in a ruling by High Court judge Weldon Korir, the court reigned that the union had failed to provide sufficient evidence that the two schemes had demonstrated any malice in the planned project launched by President Kenyatta.
“It is my finding that the application has failed to pass the test for the issuance of conservatory orders,” reads the ruling made on Friday last week by Mr. Korir.
Mr. Korir who virtually read the verdict, further argued that the petitioners had not demonstrated they had a prima facie case “with a probability of success that if the orders sought are not granted they will suffer prejudice and that the public interest is in favour of the granting of the orders.”
A prima facie case is a cause of action or defense that is sufficiently established by a party’s evidence to justify a verdict in his or her favor, provided such evidence is not rebutted by the other party.
In its submission, the Union had also argued that the amount of 50-storey investment expected to host the Ministry of Devolution headquarters and Council of Governors Secretariat, was likely to be misused and would not be put to good use.
“To date, members and other stakeholders do not know the specifics of the project apart from what is in the public domain,” said Duba, who also contended that the joint venture by LapTrust and CPF had violated the principle of distinct and separate investment from the sponsor.
But Judge Korir while dismissing the petition in which the Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA) and Council of Governors are listed as interested parties, faulted the union for overlooking laid out legal procedures in its court suit.
“It has already been established that the petitioners do not have the requisite authority to institute these proceedings, and neither have they exhausted the dispute resolution mechanism provided by the law. I therefore find nothing in this matter to make me depart from that position. As such the parties are directed to meet their own costs of the proceedings,” said Mr. Korir.
The ruling now paves way for the construction of a project commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta of what will be Kenya’s tallest building when completed.
The 50-storey G47 Ugatuzi Tower will be erected in Nairobi’s Hurlingham area which will be 19 floors higher than the current tallest building in Kenya, Britam Tower which stands at 31 storeys and 200.1 metres.
In a separate standoff between the two parties, the union has faulted the two schemes and RBA arguing that that parallel operations by the two schemes were a waste of the workers’ money.
The schemes have differed on various issues, key among them the process that would be used to select a board of trustees.
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