Capital Markets

Unclaimed cash, shares, dividends cross Sh50bn


Former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, the late Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso and late First Lady Lucy Kibaki are among the list of prominent Kenyans whose funds have helped swell the unclaimed assets fund. FILE PHOTOS | NMG

Unclaimed cash, shares and dividends surrendered to a State agency have crossed the Sh50 billion mark as investors including tycoons show disinterest in reclaiming the idle assets.

Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority (Ufaa) on Monday revealed the idle assets stood at Sh51.4 billion in December, up from Sh43 billion in June, reflecting a growth of 19 per cent.

Many Kenyans, said the authority, remain disinterested in pursuing funds legally belonging to them or their families.

Billionaire business owners, former powerful government officials and prominent politicians are on the long list of individuals whose shares worth Sh31.9 billion have been surrendered to the Treasury, up from Sh26.3 billion in June and Sh16.42 in 2017.

The authority reckons it had received Sh19.9 billion cash in local and foreign currencies up from Sh16.7 billion in June.

Surrendered safe boxes that are believed to contain jewellery, title deeds, share certificates and Treasury bills rose to 1,953 units from 1,592 in June.

The money is largely held by insurance companies, banks, pension schemes, legal firms, mobile phone money wallets and saccos, among others.

So far, the authority has received 6,000 claims and reunited shares and cash worth Sh1 billion with beneficiaries, representing 1.9 per cent of the unclaimed assets.

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

Reporting and surrender of unclaimed financial assets by all holders is mandatory and is due on or before November 1 every year. Holders are encouraged to file nil returns if applicable.

The law allows the Ufaa to charge any entity that fails to surrender unclaimed assets a penalty of 25 per cent of the assets held.

Besides, the authority levies a penalty of between Sh7,000 and Sh50,000 for each day that the assets stayed before being submitted.

The law requires the holding company to search for the rightful owners of an asset before declaring it unclaimed and forwarding it to the Ufaa.

A Business Daily review of the authority’s public database found a long list of prominent Kenyans whose funds have helped swell the fund.

Top among them is former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka whose fortune was picked from Standard Chartered Bank #ticker:SCBK, KCB #ticker:KCB and Co-operative Bank #ticker:COOP.

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula is at risk of losing his NCBA #ticker:NCBA, Housing Finance #ticker: HFCK, East Africa Cables #ticker:CABL, East African Breweries Limited #ticker:EABL shares and unknown assets in Airtel Networks.

Also on the list is the late Cabinet minister Simeon Nyachae, whose KCB, Safaricom #ticker:SCOM  and Co-operative Bank shares have been forwarded to the Ufaa.

The late minister controlled a vast business empire with interests in manufacturing, transport, banking and large-scale farming.

Longtime intelligence chief James Kanyotu, politician JM Kariuki and former Cabinet minister Mbiyu Koinange – since deceased – are among prominent individuals whose dividends and shares are held at the agency following family feuds that have frozen the sharing of their properties.

The families of former presidents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki have also failed to claim some idle assets linked to their late matriarchs – Lena Moi and Lucy Kibaki.

Sameer Africa #ticker: SMER, Standard Chartered Bank and Absa #ticker:ABSA surrendered dividends and shares belonging to the late Kanyotu, who served founding President Jomo Kenyatta and later under the late Moi as head of intelligence for 27 years.

More than 11 years after the death of the spymaster, a court is yet to decide how his property estimated at Sh20 billion will be shared

The inheritance fights have denied beneficiaries a valid will or letters of administration required to gain authority over the assets.

Also on the list are Senator James Orengo, the late William Odongo Omamo (a former Cabinet minister and the father of Foreign Affairs Cabinet secretary Raychelle Omamo), the late Bomet governor Joyce Laboso and former US President Barack Obama’s father.

It is not clear whether the companies that have handed over assets belonging to the prominent families made an effort to comply with the law.

Most of the unclaimed assets are attributed to failure by the deceased to inform the beneficiaries of the assets besides the absence of a will.

Wealthy Kenyans are also shying away from claiming the billions of shillings in idle assets surrendered to the State.

The Ufaa reckons it is struggling to re-unite the cash with their rightful owners or beneficiaries, claiming some are being turned off by the worth of assets under the Treasury’s custody.