$119m in monies yet to be claimed

SINGAPORE- You might be one of several thousand people and businesses who have unclaimed monies totalling $118.5 million, which is being held by government ministries and the courts here.

This is a 75 per cent increase from the $67.8 million of unclaimed monies held at the end of 2012, according to the Ministry of Finance (MOF).

And it does not include the amounts held by statutory boards as they are not required to report the individual amounts to MOF.

If left unclaimed by their rightful owners, the monies are typically rolled into general government funds after six years.

The Ministry of Law's Insolvency and Public Trustee's Office (IPTO) holds about 90 per cent of the $118.5 million - or about $107 million, up from just $40 million in 2012.

IPTO said "the bulk of the unclaimed monies are due to pawners, creditors of insolvent estates and beneficiaries of deceased estates", and noted that an additional $48 million had already been claimed since November 2004 when an online register listing who is owed was set up.

IPTO would only say that the jump in funds was due to "a reclassification of these monies as unclaimed monies, after repeated unsuccessful attempts to trace the whereabouts of the beneficiaries".

More than 30 statutory boards also hold unclaimed monies, and the three with the most number of entries listed are the Land Transport Authority (5,965), the Housing Board (1,856), and the Central Provident Fund Board (1,800).

The trio hold $8.2 million in unclaimed monies between them. These are mostly refunds of road tax, concession card balances, rental deposits, registration fees for transactions of flats, and outstanding amounts in CPF accounts. This would work out to an average of about $850 for each of the entries.

The online register notes that agencies have already "made reasonable efforts to refund the unclaimed monies", including sending reminder letters and checking for official addresses, yet sometimes the owners remain uncontactable.

MOF's spokesman urged the public to check the register and come forward to claim any money due to them.

The Straits Times traced four claimants listed on the online register, but three said they do not remember receiving any notices.

Interior designer Lim Boon Chye, 50, has "other refunds" owed to him under the Ministry of Home Affairs, according to the register. He said: "Perhaps it would be better if they could call and explain in different languages too, as my English is not good and I speak only Mandarin."

Electrical engineer Foong Weng Cheong, 62, who is owed an undisclosed sum under his "member's unclaimed balance" from the now defunct NTUC Income Car Co-operative, remembers receiving a notice.

But he did not bother collecting the money as he thought there was paperwork involved and was unsure if it was worth the trouble. "I don't know if it's a big amount and I don't want the extra hassle. After that, I just forgot about it."

How you can make claims

Want to know if there is unclaimed money that belongs to you?

All you need to do is to visit www.unclaimedmonies.gov.sg

Launched in 2004, it lists the people whom government agencies have been trying to return money to.

To find out if you are entitled to money held by any of these agencies, simply type your name in the search bar at the top of the page.

In most cases, the amount that is coming to you is undisclosed. Those with documentary proof of rightful ownership must first approach the contact people listed in the search to find out the exact amount they are owed and how they can collect the money.

The database is not complete as a handful of agencies such as the Ministry of Law and the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore host their respective lists on their own sites. The register has links to these.

According to the Ministry of Finance, unclaimed general deposits are usually credited to the Government's Consolidated Fund after six years. Valid claims can still be made after the money has been credited to the Consolidated Fund.

All government agencies, including statutory boards, "are required to make all reasonable efforts to return monies to the rightful owners promptly", said a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance, which runs the online register.


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