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Old banks top remittals of Sh3bn unclaimed cash

Old banks with operations dating back over a century top the list of contributors to the Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority (UFAA).

Chief executive Kellen Kariuki said KCB had remitted the largest amount to the authority by the end of July, at Sh700 million, with the total amount held in trust of claimants now standing at Sh3.3 billion.

Standard Chartered has remitted about Sh500 million, the defunct Kenya National Assurance Corporation (KNAC) Sh340 million and Barclays Bank at Sh200 million.

“We have collected Sh3.3 billion from various institutions, but largely from banks. The highest amount so far from an individual is about Sh500,000,” said Ms Kariuki.

“The task force that established the authority had estimated that unclaimed financial assets could range from Sh50 billion to Sh283 billion. We are undertaking proper research to establish the right amount however, but we think Sh283 billion may be too high; we expect under Sh100 billion.”

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The three lenders have been operating in Kenya for over a century, explaining why they hold the millions in unclaimed cash with some of their accounts dating back decades.

Among the funds collected from the KNAC is Sh55,933 from a life insurance cover taken by Barack Hussein Obama, the father of US President Barack Obama.

The entire amount is held at the trust fund account at Central Bank of Kenya, and has been invested in government securities.

Safaricom has so far remitted Sh196 million to the authority from the amount left in M-Pesa accounts and in airtime balance by customers, some of which held as low as Sh1.

“In terms of the number of accounts, Safaricom leads with 1.5 million names, while other companies have about 400,000. We have about 60 companies in total, although some are registrars holding unclaimed dividends,” said Ms Kariuki.

The amount of money that has already been claimed by beneficiaries is, however, small compared to the total amount the authority is holding in the account, at one per cent or Sh32 million.

She said that a lack of proper documentation is the main impediment for those looking to be certified as the right claimants, as well as low public awareness of the existence of the authority.

The chief executive said the first beneficiaries would be paid on Wednesday, when UFAA will also launch its strategic plan covering the period 2015 to 2019.

Unclaimed assets can range from dormant bank accounts, shares, dividend cheques, but not real estate, land, and abandoned personal property or lost and found items.

One of the major issues surrounding the unclaimed financial assets centre around the use of the resources once they are recovered, in instances where the owners are not traceable or fail to lodge proper claims.

In some countries, the recovered but unclaimed funds held by the respective authorities are used for public good.

Last year, Education principal secretary Bellio Kipsang proposed that the UFAA Act be reviewed to allow the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) utilise at least 60 per cent of the unclaimed financial assets for student loans repayable after graduation.

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