By Lillian Aluanga-Delvaux
For more than 35 years, Charles Njoroge has been chasing a dream that may be fulfilled with establishment of a body expected to revolutionise management of unclaimed assets.
Njoroge, 66, is among 2,800 former employees of the defunct East African Airways (EAA), fighting to regain monies accumulated through a provident fund before the company’s collapse in 1977.
A provident fund is a saving platform where both the employer and employee pay money into a fund. This money is then paid in lump sum (single payment) to the employee upon retirement. It differs from the Pension fund where such payments are made upon an individual’s retirement, but in fixed monthly installments.
The EAA was set up in 1946 and was jointly run by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania before its dissolution 31 years later. Although the Airline’s former employees from Uganda and Tanzania were compensated in 2005 and 2006 respectively, their Kenyan counterparts are yet to get their refunds.
“We don’t know why the Government hasn’t paid us. We have been to the Retirement Benefits Authority, the Treasury and the Attorney General’s office, but with little success,” says Njoroge, who is the secretary to the Ex- East African Airways Staff Welfare Association.
Eight months after the Unclaimed Financial Assets Act (2011) became law, the Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority is yet to be appointed, delaying implementation of legislation that will see the likes of Njoroge reclaim their assets.
The Ministry of Finance is responsible for setting up the authority. Besides establishment of the Authority’s board, the Unclaimed Assets law also provides for formation of an Unclaimed Financial Assets Trust Fund, into which monies such as those held by third parties (like in the EAA case), will be paid.
Creation of the Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority was aimed at tracking down owners of huge amounts of unclaimed assets that remain in the hands of institutions like banks, insurance companies, social security funds, and utility service providers.
Such assets are presumed forgotten because they remain unclaimed by the owners over a period stipulated by law. Examples of these forgotten assets are in the form of savings accounts, pensions, unclaimed stocks shares, unpaid dividends, unused customer credits, life assurances and property such as land and buildings.
Failure to have requirements that oblige holding institutions to declare assets as unclaimed, collapse or change in corporate structures are also factors.