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State must do more to secure unclaimed assets

By - | November 2nd 2012

The move by Government to finally take over unclaimed assets is laudable.  All unclaimed dividends, bankers’ cheques and cash deposits lying within the bank vaults will now be passed on to the Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority.

The list of other unclaimed financial assets that were passed on to the authority from yesterday, include pensions, cash held up within the mobile cash transfer system and safe deposit boxes for which rental fees has remained unpaid for more than two years. The intention is to help create a one-stop-shop for unclaimed assets estimated to run into billions of shillings.

Besides holding the assets in trust until beneficiaries are identified, the authority is also expected to help hedge the crippling official bureaucracy that has over the years characterised the process of reclaiming of these assets.

For long, would-be beneficiaries — mostly widows and orphans — have been at the mercy of rent seekers and corruption tsars as they moved from one office to another in an endless chase of their rightful entitlements. A specific Authority to deal with these assets is commendable and long overdue. 

The response by institutions holding these assets has so far been encouraging, several of them staking their resources in media adverts to invite beneficiaries to file their claims as the deadline inched closer.

However, what has been most disappointing, even suspicious was the Government’s lack of commitment to secure these assets.

While the Government was hard at work pushing corporates to surrender unclaimed assets, they were slow to institute a body that would receive and play custodian to the surrendered assets. The vacuum by design or otherwise exposes the assets to possible plunder and abuse.

Coming right in the middle of politics, there is legitimate concern the funds could be earmarked for political campaigns as has happened with other institutions in the past.

Government must demonstrate commitment to ensure unclaimed assets are secure and go to the rightful owners and or use.

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