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ICPSK roots for unclaimed asset authority

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 26 – The Institute of Certified Public Secretaries of Kenya (ICPSK) is proposing the establishment of an Unclaimed Assets Oversight Authority.

According to ICPSK, there is an estimated Sh200 billion in assets that is yet to be claimed by owners or beneficiaries. The amount mainly includes cash deposits in banks, insurance premiums, retirement benefits and dividends.

ICPSK Chairman Joe Mbuthia said the institute has formulated and presented a policy paper to the Ministry of Finance for consideration to set up the necessary legal and governance framework to track the assets with the ultimate aim of forwarding them to the owners.

“We felt that it is our mandate that we become active and provide the technical support necessary in the formulation of a policy framework that protects people’s hard earned money,” Mr Mbuthia said.

Financial unclaimed assets refer to cash.

Assets ranging from bank deposits to dividend cheques, retirement benefits and, more recently, money held in mobile phone cash transfer services by deceased people often lie unclaimed because there are no laws governing what institutions holding the assets should do.

Others include shares held at the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) and utility deposits to service providers such as Kenya Power and Lighting Company, Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company and Telkom Kenya.

Currently, there are no laws in place to track unclaimed assets and it is difficult to tell how much actually lie idle. This had rendered the Ministry of Finance powerless to step in and take control of the assets.

ICPSK drafted the Unclaimed Financial Assets Bill in 2008 but is yet to be debated. The Institute has now formulated the policy paper in order to jump start debate on the Bill.

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The Institute’s Chief Executive Officer Joshua Wambua said the recommendations include setting up an Unclaimed Assets Trust Fund tasked with managing the assets and investing the monies and using the proceeds to manage the fund and for other designated purposes.

Mr Wambua also called for the dormancy period of the assets to be defined as the period of time during which an owner of property does not take any action with relation to the property.  The period of inactivity is listed as two years.

“It is recommended the holding institution continue holding the unclaimed asset for five years bringing the aggregate dormancy period to seven years after which it is remitted to the Trust Fund and held for 15 years,” Mr Wambua said.

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