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Secret lives push ceded unclaimed assets to Sh40bn

 

Kenyans have handed to the government Sh40 billion in cash and securities that no one is able to claim.

This is because many people hardly disclose their monetary worth and ownership of physical assets thereby creating a smooth one-way avenue for private money stashed in banks, insurance companies, saccos, unclaimed salaries and royalties, among others, to be ceded to the government.

As at November 4, the Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority (Ufaa) said it was holding Sh13 billion in interest earning accounts and securities valued at about Sh40 billion whose owners could not be traced.

“Our work is to re-unite this money to its lawful owners and urge Kenyans to check our website (www.ufaa.go.ke) whether any of them, ailing senior or deceased relatives are owners of this cash,” said Ufaa’s acting chief executive Caroline Chirchir.

Ms Chirchir said the funds could triple in value once valuables held in 1,451 safeboxes were opened and their contents valued before being auctioned to raise money to offset storage and costs incurred when breaking the safeboxes as well as repairing them.

It is mostly affluent Kenyans who use safeboxes owned by banks, saccos and insurance companies to stash away cash in various foreign denominations, title deeds, firearms, jewellery, share certificates among other valuables that they are unwilling to keep at home or within reach of their spouses or relatives.

The National Council of Churches of Kenya Deputy secretary-general Nelson Makanda said churches were trying hard to make couples embrace ‘oneness’ in all aspects of their matrimonial life.

“Once a couple weds, we entrench the principle of oneness in all aspects of their lives. They jointly bear children, raise them up and own properties. Even on matters finances, we insist, plans on investments and savings must be jointly made,” he said.

This, he observed, helped reduce wastage of the deceased’s estate during litigation as parties pursue succession matters.

“But some people are wayward and decline to write a will while alive for fear of disclosing their ‘wayward ways’. Some people appear to be living perfect lives only for the truth to emerge upon their death that they ran parallel families that now want a share of their estate,” he said.

Dr Makanda hailed Nairobi Baptist Church move to establish a support department that counselled couples, men and women during fellowship meetings on the need to prepare a will.

Former Nyahururu Deputy Mayor Jonah Gicheru says most people (men and women) fear disclosing the entirety of their wealth as it could lay a basis for properties’ subdivision in case of a successful divorce case. He said others fear their family members could conspire to eliminate them to inherit their property.

The four-term civic leader said he supported ongoing campaigns by religious leaders that spouses must share all information about their properties (wealth) especially land, securities, cash in banks and any other form of wealth that has monetary value.

“Some people believe writing a will is akin to a premonition of one’s death but that is a fallacious costly belief that has made many wealthy families to languish in poverty as they lack information on their relatives’ wealth,” he said.

Ufaa has for the past three years posted names of claimants on their website ufaa.go.ke as well as sponsored radio and television sensitisation campaigns.

“The campaigns are starting to bear fruit since Sh327 million has been returned (paid out) to 5,871 claimants. We are also working out on more claims that we plan to disburse soon,” said Chirchir.

The CEO said a new a text-based USSD number based platform *361# had also been launched allowing one to search for information on a loved one’s cash or other financial assets using an analogue phone.

The Sh13 billion held by Ufaa in a trust account at Central Bank of Kenya is enough to turn the Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau Summit highway into a six lane superhighway.

Ms Chirchir said financial institutions surrendered another Sh2.85 billion at the end of the reporting period on November 1.

The Sh2.85 billion is enough to build the 22-floor twin tower owned by University of Nairobi that cost Sh2.3 billion and furnish it.

Last November, she said some 100 million shares of an unknown value were handed over by stockbrokers after they remained unclaimed for the last two years.

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