NAIROBI, Kenya Dec 3- President Mwai Kibaki on Friday assented to the Unclaimed Financial Assets Act 2011, paving way for the reuniting of beneficiaries with money that has remained unclaimed for years.
The new law provides for the reporting and dealing with unclaimed financial assets to be returned to their rightful owners or beneficiaries.
The new law also creates a new government agency, the Unclaimed Assets Authority, with powers to take over all unclaimed assets sitting in dormant accounts with either commercial banks or insurance companies or unpaid dividends sitting on the books of quoted companies.
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.
Banks are reported to hold Sh7.4 billion, listed companies Sh1.5 billion and insurance companies Sh283 million. The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) has reported that Sh243 million in its books that is yet to be claimed.
“The Act determines unclaimed Assets and prescribes classification of unclaimed Assets while providing maintenance of electronic data bases of all unclaimed Assets submitted to the Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority,” a statement sent by the Presidential Press Service reads.
For years assets, ranging from bank deposits to dividend cheques, retirement benefits and more recently virtual money held in mobile phones by deceased persons, are going unchecked as the government dragged its feet on instituting relevant legislation.
Others include utility deposits to service providers such as Kenya Power and the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company.
Death of account holders, emigration and incorrect customer details have been identified as the main cause of the build-up in unclaimed assets.
The law also seeks to establish the Unclaimed Financial Assents Trust Fund that will be charged with identifying projects that the money mopped up could be channeled to for instance development projects.
Kenya now joins the ranks of the US, UK, and South Africa, where institutions have been set up and charged to submit unclaimed assets to the State which holds them in trust.
President Kibaki also assented to the Capital Markets (Amendment Act) 2011 which amends the principal Act to provide for recognition of self regulatory organizations with delegated authority.
Under the amended Act, self regulatory organizations are required to submit within three months after the end of every financial year, the financial statement and an annual report to the CMA.
Also passed was the National Payment Systems Act 2011 which provides for the regulation and supervision of payment systems and service providers by the Central Bank. The Act empowers the CBK to designate and revoke payment systems and instruments.
The president also passed the Central Depositories (Amendment) Act 2011 and the Nation Construction Authority Act 2011.