Some $150m of unclaimed money held by government ministries and courts
This article is taken from The Straits Times, Jan 13, 2016.
At least 34,000 people and businesses have yet to claim money from a pool of almost $150 million which is being held by government ministries and the courts, The Straits Times has discovered.
Much of it has been forgotten by its owners, with more than 95 per cent held by the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) on behalf of beneficiaries of deceased estates, pawnbrokers and creditors of insolvent estates.
The amount rose to $148.4 million as of the end of last year - 10 per cent more than in 2014, and more than double the figure in 2012.
The sum - revealed to ST by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) - excludes unclaimed money held by statutory boards as they are not required to report individual amounts to the MOF.
In 2013, unclaimed money held by ministries and courts jumped 75 per cent to $118.5 million.
The MOF previously put this down to a reclassification of money as being unclaimed after repeated unsuccessful attempts to trace the whereabouts of the beneficiaries.
An MOF spokesman said: "All government agencies, including statutory boards, are required to make all reasonable efforts to return monies to the rightful owners promptly." This includes contacting their next-of-kin, sending reminder letters and trying to obtain the latest addresses of the beneficiaries to contact them and make refunds.
The MOF also has an online register of claimants at www.unclaimedmonies.gov.sg.
Anyone wanting to check an outstanding claim can type their name or that of their business into a search bar. Individual amounts left unclaimed are not listed. If money is left unclaimed by its rightful owner, it is usually transferred into general government funds after six years.
The MOF spokesman said: "All valid claims will be repaid, regardless of where the monies are held or when these claims date back to."
For MinLaw records, visitors to the unclaimed money register will be redirected to the MinLaw website, which has three lists and over 30,000 entries.
The Ministry of Manpower has 2,244 entries listed on the unclaimed monies register, mostly factory registration fees and levy bonds.
Among the companies owed factory registration fees is Ching Motor Repair Shop, which is co-owned by Mr Chin Kok Ming, 50.
"We have not received any notification letters. I am not aware of the website either, and old people like us are not as familiar with the Internet," he said in Mandarin, after ST found his company name on the register and contacted him. He said he will check the register for more details, but may not claim the money if it is too inconvenient. Last Monday, a new online register for unclaimed insurance pay-outs was set up, but it crashed at 11am after people rushed to access it.
The site www.lia.org.sg/consumers/unclaimed-proceeds/list, has since gone back online. The funds are from small-value policies that policyholders or their beneficiaries failed to collect.
It is believed that insurance companies are sitting on millions in unclaimed proceeds from life policies. The Life Insurance Association (LIA), which set up the register, could not reveal the exact figure.