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Editorials

EDITORIAL: Hasten efforts to reunite Kenyans with idle assets

The late Mrs Lucy Kibaki
The late Mrs Lucy Kibaki. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority (UFAA) has, once again, listed property of prominent families among those still being held more than two years after information that it should be claimed was made public.

In a report published last week, the agency said former presidents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki’s families are yet to claim idle assets owned by their late matriarchs.

They include East Africa Breweries Limited (EABL) and Centum Investment shares and dividends belonging to Lena Moi who died in 2004 as well as property belonging to Lucy Kibaki, who died in 2016.

It is instructive to note that Mrs Kibaki’s assets were forwarded to UFAA by Co-operative Bank in 2015 while Mrs Moi’s EABL and Centum shares were transferred to the agency in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

For an agency whose primary role is to unite assets with owners, it smacks of mischief that property belonging to easily traceable Kenyans should be held this long.

First, the law gives firms between one and five years depending on asset class before handing the unclaimed assets to UFAA. How come custodians of these assets only wait to hand over items in their possession to UFAA at the close of the legal window instead of making use of primary contact details in their custody to locate real owners?

And if asset holders struggle to identify prominent families, what chances are there that little-known Kenyans will ever be reunited with deposits in their dormant bank and mobile phone accounts or surrendered insurance policy values?

Is it a coincidence that more than Sh8.3 billion has been accumulated by UFAA? Shouldn’t owners be paid interest for delayed asset recovery? The Treasury, under whose docket UFAA operates, must get to the bottom of this issue.

As things stand, one may even be forgiven for thinking that enactment of the Unclaimed Financial Assets Act has, in fact, made it more difficult to reunite owners with their property. It is also not right that eight years since it was established, UFAA is still struggling with operational issues. Kenyans want to see a UFAA that is not only keen at collecting the unclaimed assets but also one which aggressively looks for the rightful owners of the idle wealth.

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