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Treasury gets Sh456m unclaimed mobile cash

Ms Kellen Kariuki, UFAA chief executive officer: The amount is now kept in the Trust Fund account at the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK). FILE PHOTO | NMG
Ms Kellen Kariuki, UFAA chief executive officer: The amount is now kept in the Trust Fund account at the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK). FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Treasury has taken over nearly half a billion shillings in mobile money deposits, whose owners have not been found, the Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority (UFAA) has reported in its latest filings.

The Sh456 million from the three mobile phone operators was taken from accounts that had by June 30 remained inactive for more than two years.

The amount, which is now kept in the Trust Fund account at the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), does not, however, include unclaimed airtime, UFAA said.

The mobile phone operators – Safaricom #ticker:SCOM, Airtel and Telkom – are under the Unclaimed Financial Assets Act required to look for the rightful owners of the assets first before surrendering them to the state.

The money surrendered was in idle accounts of lost SIM cards that are yet to be replaced or those whose owners have left the country.

Safaricom, which controlled 71.9 per cent of the mobile money market in March, had in February 2015 indicated it was holding about Sh500 million in idle M-Pesa accounts.

The cash was to be given back to owners or beneficiaries upon proving the death of the owners and production of an administration letter granting them powers over the deceased’s estate.

The unclaimed money transferred to UFAA by the three telecoms operators is part of the Sh8.3 billion the State had taken over by June 30.

The Trust Fund account at the CBK also had Sh241.2 million in US dollars and Sh194.6 million in other foreign currencies, UFAA said.

This brings the total value of unclaimed assets surrendered to the State in cash to Sh8.73 billion, barely unchanged from Sh8.7 billion in December and Sh5.8 billion in June 2016.

Unclaimed assets include bank accounts that have been dormant for more than five years, bankers cheques not cashed for two years and contents in safe deposit boxes unclaimed for more than two years.

Life insurance policies unclaimed for more than two years and shares whose dividends have not been collected for more than three years are also surrendered to UFAA under the same law.

The latest UFAA report said listed companies could not trace the owners of 241.3 million shares valued at Sh16.42 billion at the end of June, a drop from Sh25 billion in 180 million shares in December 2016.

Owners of 9.1 million unit trusts valued at Sh15.3 million could also not be found.

The total value of unclaimed assets, including notifications of inactive shares and unit trust accounts, was estimated at close to Sh25.2 billion in June.

UFAA usually invests the cash in Treasury bonds which offer fixed returns, eliminating the risk of deterioration of value as it waits for beneficiaries to lodge claims which are vetted before payment can be processed.

Prominent figures

Assets of prominent families, including former presidents Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki, the father of former US President Barack Obama and late Interior secretary Joseph Nkaisserry, were among those surrendered to the State, according to records earlier in the year.

The shares of Mr Moi’s wife Lena, who died in 2004, in East African Breweries #ticker:EABL and Centum #ticker:ICDC were surrendered to UFAA in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Former First Lady Lucy Kibaki’s property in Co-operative Bank #ticker:COOP had also been transferred to the authority in 2015, before she died on April 26, 2016 in London.

UFAA chief executive Kellen Kariuki said on Friday the agency had processed and paid out about Sh37.7 million to 419 claimants out of the 3,039 claims valued at Sh139.6 million lodged. The claims paid are equivalent to 0.43 per cent of the total value of the Trust Fund.

The owners or beneficiaries are paid via bank transfers through the CBK. “We are at an advanced stage in engaging a commercial bank to offer other payment modes for claimants without local bank accounts. Commercial banks have multiple payment options at our disposal,” Ms Kariuki said.

“We have entered into partnership with ICPAK (Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya) on delivery of a range of issues on unclaimed assets. UFAA also was appointed a Central Depository Agent to receive, hold and reunify unclaimed securities tenable at Nairobi Securities Exchange.”

About 66.36 per cent, or Sh5.5 billion, of the unclaimed assets have been transferred to UFAA by 46 banks, Sh1.58 billion by 36 listed firms, Sh710.25 million by 22 insurers, Sh22.44 million by two pension funds and Sh14.74 million by 10 saccos.

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